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Establishing and implementing a municipal energy and climate action plan

Municipal energy and climate action plans are sometimes referred to as plans for sustainable energy and, in other instances, as plans for climate change mitigation. Although there are conceptual differences (the first aims at reducing energy use and meeting energy demand with renewables; the second aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions), the plans only result in considerably different approaches in municipalities with high non-energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (for example, because of large agricultural activities). In some cases, a climate action plan deals not only with climate change mitigation, but also with climate change adaptation.

Establishing a municipal energy and climate action plan is very important to ensure consistency among the different measures to be implemented, including those carried out by other actors (for example, private companies) on the territory of the municipality. It is also important to ensure a strategic approach towards sustainable energy and climate change mitigation that can take advantage of opportunities that may arise from efforts (such as investments) in these areas.

As in any other action plan, a key step is setting targets. In some cases, these are political targets set a priori (often long-term targets). In other cases, they can be developed bottom-up starting from the inventory data and are often more short-term. The plan is then developed through a set of actions aimed at achieving these targets.

Depending on the areas to be addressed, municipalities can intervene with actions to reduce emissions in different areas like:

The local action plan usually presents the actions to be implemented, using the inventory data to support the case for particular interventions.

It is very important that the actions are appropriate, the expected results are reasonable, and that a monitoring and review mechanism is implemented with a view to check the plan’s progress and achievement of the expected results.

Key aspects to consider when establishing and implementing an effective municipal action plan are:

  • political commitment
  • participatory approach
  • no one-size-fits-all approach
  • thorough data analysis and understanding of drivers of changes in energy consumption
  • broad set of actions
  • scenario-based approach
  • clear operational responsibilities
  • planning the appropriate resources
  • publicly available and widely disseminated information.

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