We need rapid, bold action to fight the climate crisis. But we also need lasting solutions, and ones that aren’t confined to certain departments or that check off a few boxes – EV charging stations, some solar installations – in a climate action plan and call it a day.
One of the tools we use at KLA to institutionalize our clients’ core sustainability and climate principles is a Sustainability or Climate Action Framework.
A Framework of this nature can be developed and deployed before, during or after a planning process and becomes a living document that local governments use to design, assess or screen a program, project or initiative to ensure it’s a net positive for the community’s core values. The Framework can take many forms and be a simple set of criteria with some guiding questions (Example A below) or something more complex with a rating system (Example B below). As the video below shows, this is basically a spreadsheet (but we make it look nice!) with several tabs that cover: summary, the framework, definitions, examples and metrics. Regardless of the exact format, the important part is that you’re considering the implications early in project development not as an afterthought or when it is too late to correct course.
Weave Core Values into Key Decisions
For example, you’re gauging whether a strategy or project would increase the number of jobs that pay a living wage, don’t impact jobs numbers at all or might reduce those job opportunities. Same thing for whether it would reduce, not impact or increase greenhouse gas emissions. If resilience is a priority, you’re assessing whether a project would create new infrastructure or development that is prepared for flooding and extreme heat, does it increase the risk in the face of these climate impacts or is it neutral?
The answers to those questions can lead to a green light for a project to move forward as-is or a discussion about what modifications could be made to better align the project with the community’s core values.
What kinds of projects are we talking about that you'd want to run through the Framework? Some examples that KLA clients have used:
- Parking garage
- Bike paths
- Solar program
- Green infrastructure project
- New school or other large building
The basic process we use to develop a Framework is:
Watch this short video to get a better understanding of what's included in a Sustainability or Climate Action Framework and how to use it:
Some of the standard elements KLA clients include in their frameworks include:
- GHG Reductions
- Economic Vitality
- Regional Collaboration
- Historic Preservation
Here is an example of the Core Values that were part of the Thrive Indianapolis plan:
As with everything, you can’t approach a Framework with a “build it and they will come” mentality. To truly integrate this into your local government's mindset and decisions, we advise clients to:
- share the framework widely
- secure buy-in with key department heads and decision makers
- arrange trainings
- identify and cultivate champions
- develop systems to track and report use of and feedback on the framework
- establish clear triggers for when the framework should be utilized (based on project cost, size, scope, etc)