KLA Perspectives

Climate Change: What Should Individuals and Local Governments Do Together?

Posted byKim Lundgren on May 27, 2022 11:38:24 AM

It’s “Now or Never”: The Latest Warnings Highlight Need for Immediate, Targeted, Proven Actions

We have a "brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all."

“We've reached the now-or-never point of limiting warming to 1.5C.”

Those were the dire warnings from the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) most recent reports. Although the language was stunning, this was not the first alarm bell to be sounded – but it’s one of the last before it’s too late: “IPCC reports take about seven years to compile, making this potentially the last warning before the world is set irrevocably on a path to climate breakdown,” reported The Guardian.

How do we keep from being paralyzed with fear or denial?

The key is to take action. But not just any action.

Make Your Action Count

The IPCC report tells governments and industry to be ambitious and act fast, but the same goes for each of us in our own lives. So what do you do?

Do a quick online search for “climate change action,” and be careful not to fall too deep down a rabbit hole. There are endless lists of steps you can take to fight climate change but not all are created equal. Seek out steps you can take that make sense for your lifestyle and that have the most impact.

One example that has made the rounds is “Take the Jump” which narrows it down to 6 key lifestyle choices:

Squares with Take the Jump actions: End clutter; Travel fresh; Eat green; Dress retro; Holiday local; Change the system
• Eat a largely plant-based diet, with healthy portions and no waste
• Buy no more than three new items of clothing per year
• Keep electrical products for at least seven years
• Take no more than one short haul flight every three years and one long haul flight every eight years
• Get rid of personal motor vehicles if you can – and if not keep hold of your existing vehicle for longer
• Make at least one life shift to nudge the system, like moving to a green energy, insulating your home or changing pension supplier

Notice that “recycle” doesn’t make the cut. We’re way past that. But when we choose wisely, collective personal shifts can have a massive impact.

Whatever you choose, we suggest running your actions through these filters:

ipcc blog graphic

  • Don't let it be a one-off. Do something that can become a habit, part of your lifestyle and your family’s, that you do over and over again.
  • Make at least one change that will help transform the system. This is where electrification (of your house or transportation) and renewables come into play.
  • Align your actions with community goals and opportunities. Start with what is realistic for the community where you live. If your city/town/county offers composting or has a good transit system, start there.


A Data-Driven Approach for Local Government Actions

That same approach – targeting the highest impact strategies – is what local governments have to do, too. At KLA we work exclusively with cities, towns and counties across the U.S. on data driven climate action plan. 

Our work with local governments designing climate action plans isn’t based on guesses or generic ideas. We use very detailed local data based on standard metrics to identify what will have the biggest impact locally and what is most actionable so that our clients can move immediately from planning to implementation.

Implementation Blueprint chart for Clark CountyA goal on its own gets us nowhere. A goal with a plan gets us a little farther – sort of like a participation ribbon. But it’s putting that plan into action – implementation – that gets you there. This COP26 headline says it all: “World Can Only Avoid Climate Catastrophe if New Climate Promises are Kept.” That's why at KLA we work with our clients and their key stakeholders to develop Implementation Blueprints that everyone has a role in implementing. 

Recognizing the urgent need for more ambitious and actionable climate plans at the local level, KLA has made a ton of resources available for free, including:

• The key elements of our climate action planning process, with best practice examples and take-home resources to help you build a stronger, more effective climate, sustainability and/or resilience plan. 

• Our Climate Solutions Webinar Series that focuses on the highest-impact GHG reduction strategies for local governments – including transportation, building energy use, energy supply and consumption and waste reduction. So far we’ve tackled Net Zero buildings, the Circular Economy and Electric Vehicles. 

• Local governments have access to many levers, but sometimes our communications to the general public could use an upgrade. That’s why we keep adding to our Communications Boot Camp series, to boost the effectiveness of branding, videos, websites, presentations and more. 

How to Have a Global and Local Impact

A sweet spot for the planet will be the nexus of personal and community action. Despite all the levers that local governments do control, they can’t do it alone.

These two worlds – what individuals and local governments can do – come together when a person pursues actions and lifestyle changes that are effective in a global sense and that dovetail with local goals. When, for example, there are incentives and options for electric vehicles or heat pumps to match local demand.

“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla. 

Cost benefit analysis of mitigation options - full chart

What does that mean for you? Find out if your city, town or county has a climate action plan.

If so, 1) dive into their goals and actions to see how you can contribute. 2) find at least one action to do right away and one you work on 3) share your action and other opportunities with at least 5 friends and neighbors.

If not, 1) get in touch with your elected officials and LG staff to encourage them to get a plan 2) look into local organizations and businesses taking action on climate and support them

No, regulations and mandates aren’t the favored way to achieve a desired outcome in the US. Yes, the message from the IPCC is dire and scary. But we still have choices.  We can do nothing. Or we can come together as a community – in the global and local sense – and align our actions to tackle climate change.



Topics: local leadership, climate leadership, climate science