Climate-Smart Municipalities

Climate-Smart Municipalities is a three-year program, started in 2016, that is organized by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia with the goal of pairing together municipalities from the two states in order to work together towards the common goal of increasing energy efficiency. Each pair is also connected with researchers from the University of Minnesota as well as German institutions, providing them with the analysis and expertise necessary to appropriately address the issues they face.

Duluth’s Involvement

Duluth is paired with Siegen, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia comparable to Duluth in size and topography. Siegen’s work on improving local sustainability has largely been focused on the development of renewable energy sources; this complements Duluth’s concentration on increasing energy efficiency, allowing the two cities to learn from one another’s successes as Siegen progresses in efficiency and as Duluth takes aim at renewable resources.

City of Siegen

The City of Duluth’s ultimate goal for participation in this program is to further develop the aspirational yet pragmatic Energy Plan through which the City can drive effective collaboration and implementation internally, locally, regionally and at the state-wide level; all toward the achievement of scalable yet meaningful reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Goals of Duluth’s participation:

Lead the community effort to reduce present and future impacts on global climate. 

The City of Duluth desires to be a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability effort, implementation and innovation on the local and statewide level. To achieve this goal in the short-term and over time, it is imperative that the City lead the way with local, regional and state partners utilizing a defined program of engagement, collaboration, implementation and, most importantly, leading by example.

Align and partner with the regional public sector. 

Develop strategic partnerships with local governmental leaders and organizations to establish synergies and create a unified direction and strategy for energy conservation and sustainability planning and implementation.

Develop capital, operational and governance policy, plans, and procedures that support and advance the conservation of energy resources and promotes environmental sustainability within the community and region. 

The most important element of developing a Climate Smart Plan is to keep all efforts focused on the ability of the City and regional partners to implement the plan by making measurable and steady progress toward the overarching goal.  The City wishes to develop internal strategies, and in collaboration with community partners, external city-wide strategies that can be directly and systematically linked to action.  Too often, plans have been developed and then remain just plans, and that is why Duluth’s plan must be pragmatic yet aspirational; it needs to be rooted in what is possible to implement while pushing us to stretch further than we have been able to achieve previously.

Align, consolidate, and refine our energy and sustainability strategy.

The City has developed, participated in and has facilitated a number of planning efforts and initiatives aimed at energy reduction and sustainability; however, the City lacks a true all-encompassing plan that can serve as a road map for action.  Through the Local Energy Action Plan, the Georgetown University Energy Challenge, the facility energy plan, Public Works street light LED conversion, MN GreenStep Cities participation and many other plans, programs and projects, the City has been working at energy conservation and sustainability improvements for some time. With this program the City seeks to tie all of these efforts up into a comprehensive strategy that will drive implementation, community collaboration, and truly set the City on the path of “leading by being,” a phrase coined by our Mayor Emily Larson to set the tone for the City’s investment of time and resources to improve our community and region.

Educate the public. 

Much of the work of energy conservation and sustainability is new to the public and to the commercial and public sectors.  To lead in this area, the City needs to lead by example and educate its partners and key stakeholders along the way.  Everything we implement creates a teachable moment, and furthers the dialogue while prompting action on energy resource management and environmental stewardship issues.  This part of the plan sets the City on a “showing not telling” path and will further enhance its efforts to bring the community and region together on these very important issues.

Reduce our energy consumption and meaningfully address our massive carbon footprint.

The key to any plan is to make measurable and steady progress on the implementation side of the equation.  The City and members of the community are all addressing energy and sustainability issues, but there is even greater value in working together and using the momentum of our collective actions to build upon and create ever more opportunities for exponentially increasing reductions and shared innovations.  By formalizing capital plans, investment strategies, and setting tangible goals, the City hopes to lead the community in increasing energy efficiency, use of renewables, improved storm water management, green urban planning, green construction building codes, sustainable land and resource management, and efficient clean energy utility services. 

Develop a specific plan for implementation.

A plan is only as good as the action is spurs, and to that end the City hopes to develop its own operational and capital plans that are achievable, scalable and practical.  With this plan, the City hopes to encourage, educate and facilitate the development of a broad framework of action aimed at reducing our region’s carbon footprint.  In this respect, the City is truly aspiring to lead by example while setting the table for ongoing energy reduction for generations to come.