Green Local Government

San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall

Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions. In addition to moderating their own resource and operational decisions, local governments can substantially influence the resource behavior and associated carbon impacts of their constituents and other key stakeholders through a variety of policies, plans and actions.

In its Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established a strategic framework for helping local governments advance sustainability within their jurisdictions.

  • Lead by Example

    Local governments are significant consumers of natural resources in their own facilities. By improving resource efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and cutting energy bills, local governments can showcase the products and practices that will become commonplace in a sustainable community.

  • Influence the Community

    Local governments can effectively influence their residents and businesses through a range of measures and techniques such as marketing and outreach efforts, incentives and entitlements, financial and technical assistance, redevelopment and economic development.

  • Leverage Local Authority

    Local governments have the authority to encourage and reward sustainable projects through local plans, permits and approvals. They can also improve the sustainability of new and existing buildings by enacting code requirements, ordinances and programs.

The California Sustainability Alliance has embarked upon multiple activities to help local governments implement these strategies.

  • Local Government Toolkits

  • Sustainable Communities

  • Survey Results

  • Local Government Toolkits

    The California Sustainability Alliance has developed several toolkits and other resources that aid local governments in planning and implementing sustainable initiatives. These include:

    • Local Government Green Procurement Guide
    • Green Tenant Guide
    • CALeep
    • Local Government Resources Toolkit
    • Green General Plans
    • Local Government Operations Protocol
    • Local Government Retrocommisioning Toolkit

  • Survey Results

    To better understand and help local governments in California successfully develop and implement effective sustainability plans and policies in their jurisdictions, the Alliance in partnership with Public Technology Institute conducted a survey of California cities to determine needs for sustainability benchmarking tools.

    The survey, conducted in April-May 2009, examined the following:

    • The level of sustainability adoption among California cities;
    • What sustainability benchmarking tools cities are now using;
    • How sustainability tools are working for local city governments; and
    • What additional functionality these tools need to support the development and implementation of sustainability plans and actions.

    76 of 480 cities in California (or 16%) participated in the survey. Key findings from the survey include:

    • 67% of respondents indicated that their communities strongly support sustainability;
    • 55% responded that there is very strong leadership support within their cities for sustainability programs;
    • Water and energy efficiency were included among the top three sustainability priorities by more than 50% of respondents. Water efficiency was selected by 21 cities as their very top sustainability priority. Eleven cities selected energy efficiency as their top priority while 20 cities selected energy efficiency as their second highest priority.
    • Although the limited sample size meant it was difficult to draw broad conclusions from this survey. The diverse responses reinforce the perspective that local governments tend to have unique local priorities and resource challenges. There are several important common themes:
      • California’s local governments face many competing priorities, many of which are mandatory, and do not have enough financial and staff resources to do them all.
      • Confusion is high, with existing and evolving policy goals and regulatory and legislative mandates competing for attention, and lack of clarity as to exactly what actions local governments need to take.
      • Despite these challenges, city leadership and community support for sustainability remain high and there is a lot of current activity in all of the sustainability priorities.
      • On their own initiative, many local governments are proactively partnering with their utilities, state and federal agencies, private organizations, and other cities and counties.
      • Nearly every one of the 76 cities that participated in this survey indicated they had some type of environmental sustainability program ‐ whether it was recycling and/or composting, to fully integrated smart growth and climate action programs.

    To view the full survey results and report, please click here

    Los Angeles City Hall
    Los Angeles City Hall