KLA Perspectives

Prioritizing Implementation for Urgent Climate Action

Posted byKim Lundgren on Apr 29, 2024 7:14:50 PM


Earth Day Is Over. Time to Kick Climate Action into High Gear – With or Without a Plan  

Don’t squander momentum from Earth Day by waiting to take action.  

As local government reps in the climate and sustainability space, we too often get stuck in a rut, waiting to complete   a specific process before we take action. We all know the drill: Conduct a GHG inventory, then go through a planning process, then hire a “sustainability coordinator” and only then does the real action kick off. While it’s important to have a plan to guide the action, humanity can no longer afford to wait for that process. Reports from the United Nations and others have made it clear that we are not on track to meet the necessary reductions to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

Facing that harsh reality, we should focus the limited resources we have on moving quickly to implement the high impact strategies that will truly reduce emissions and enhance resilience. Without that laser focus, action is delayed or watered down or both.  

Here are 4 steps that can put you on an action-centered path that matches the urgency of the climate crisis: 

1. Be clear on high impact actions.

Hopefully, you took our advice and leveraged Earth Day to hammer home the importance of high impact solutions. 

Now it’s time to turn that momentum into action.  At KLA, we talk a lot about prioritizing high impact actions because there is a direct correlation between those actions and the greenhouse gas emissions you have been tracking. If you switch out oil or natural gas for a heat pump and solar on a large scale, you will see a reduction in emissions. While these are not simple actions for homeowners and building and facility managers, they are one-time decisions that will yield emissions benefits for years to come.  

High impact actions are those opportunities that will yield swift, direct, and quantifiable GHG emissions reductions. Given our race against time, we have to accelerate implementation of these quick wins and build momentum with demonstrated impact. This is what we highly recommend you prioritize high impact actions in your community, whether you have a plan or not. 

Common High Impact Actions: Buildings (Deep energy retrofits and building electrification), Energy (Installation of clean renewable energy), Transportation (Shift to electric vehicles), Waste (Absolute reduction in amount of waste generated)

These are the actions that can have a GHG reduction benefit. But when you’re confronted with finite time, money, and resources, focus on the actions that will get you as close to global reduction targets of 50% reduction by 2030 as possible. So if you just happened to come into a pot of money from, say, the federal government, perhaps you should forego (for now) direct action in your government operations (often 3% or less of community emissions) in lieu of helping your residents make the changes that are needed in their homes. 

2. Analyze the data that you already have.

We are big proponents of data-driven plans.  But you don’t have to be in an active planning process to tap into the power of data, and you may not need to seek out new data set --  there may be value in the data you already have on hand. For example, nearly every community has a local property tax or assessor's databaseWhile they may not always be up to date, local data resources can provide great insights for prioritizing efforts. It’s easy to focus on just the fuel type when it comes to decarbonization, but knowing the type of heating system can give a better sense of how hard the transition will be.

In the Northeast, knowing the homes with existing duct work for a hot air heating system could help target where today’s heat pumps will be easiest to install, while models that work with radiators will become more common in the near future

Many states are now publishing data on the transition to electric vehicles.  These kinds of statistics are filling critical gaps in knowledge about the speed of the transition, in some cases down to the zip code level. This can help to illustrate where change is happening and who is getting left behind – that kind of data can then inform decisions about where to place EV infrastructure and how to target information campaigns. 


What’s more important than using data every day is improving it every day. Local government generates a lot of data in the course of normal business. Maybe it’s only a few tweaks to a form or a new checkbox on an inspection process. One very low effort but high payoff action is to create a historical record by grabbing annual snapshots of datasets that are constantly changing: properties, fleet vehicles, or street trees. These are just a few examples of how we can be working to set up the next plan, project, or Earth Day fact sheet with more actionable information. 

Through Resilient Danvers  – the Danvers, MA, Climate Action, Sustainability, Preservation, and Resiliency (CASPR) Plan – we worked with the municipal utility department to conduct interviews with residents that had engaged with their heat pump program, whether they installed or not. The results suggested that the incentives the Town was offering were not enough to spur action, so the Municipal Light Plant Board agreed to more than double the incentives. We then utilized the assessor’s database to identify priority neighborhoods that would meet the identified targeted criteria: 

  1. Has existing duct work 
  2. At least 20 years old 
  3. Utilizes natural gas or oil 

Based on that criteria, we confirmed two priority neighborhoods for a targeted outreach campaign (more on that later). 

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3. Confirm barriers to action

As previously noted, high impact actions like solar and heat pumps are not decisions that will be made lightly, and they are not something that everyone can easily implement. Therefore, it is essential to ascertain what financial, awareness, access or psychological barriers stand in the way in your

Home Improvement Focus Group Flyer (1)Fear not: determining this information does not have to be a yearlong statistically significant research assignment. In most cases, you can make an educated guess based on some common barriers. For heat pumps, are they perceived as too expensive, or do people not believe they are a fit for their climate?

The next step is confirming those barriers and identifying any nuances. Once you’ve identified who in your community you want to engage (i.e. the priority neighborhoods example from Danvers), offer low-commitment activities to get their feedback. These can range from a quick poll on social media (like this one we used in New Bedford) or an online survey to a phone interview, or even a 60 min in-person focus group. 

See an example agenda for a renter focus group here.

Pro tip: Find a meaningful way to acknowledge sharing their time and opinions. For focus group participants we often give a gift card to a local shop, free bus or bike share pass, free lunch with the Sustainability Director or the Mayor, or something else that is locally appealing. 

4. Launch a targeted campaign.

Armed with your target audience and insight into the barriers keeping them from action, you can design the most effective tactics and messaging for an outreach campaign. The key is to emphasize how you the solution that helps overcome the barrier:  

  • Financial barrier? Reference all the new IRA rebates or other programs that exist locally.  
  • Lack of knowledge? If people need more information on a technology like heat pumps, bring in some video or written testimonials of neighbors that have made the switch, do a show-and-tell at a local hardware store or community events, or work with your local utility to sponsor a pilot project. 
  • Trust? Again, incorporate testimonials from trusted sources – neighbors, well-known figures in the community.  

Pro tip: You will want to use interesting graphics in your outreach flyers and provide a contact name, email address, and phone number for someone who can answer questions. 


So as you wrap up Earth Month, don’t waste time or squander momentum. Be clear about high impact actions, utilize the wealth of data you already have on hand, confirm the barriers that stand in the way of your community taking action and design a targeted campaign for maximum impact. Make sure you’re taking these steps – even if you don’t have an official climate plan or you’re in the process of developing one – so your community’s actions match the urgency of the climate crisis.