City of Duluth Adopts Inaugural Climate Action Work Plan

In early 2022, the City of Duluth adopted its first ever Climate Action Work Plan (CAWP), an important milestone that will help the City strategically move forward with sustainability initiatives and meet climate goals. The CAWP was created in response to the City of Duluth’s Climate Emergency Declaration, calling out that our region is experiencing the effects of climate change right now. For the last several years, the City has had the commitment of reducing emissions 80% by 2050. Recognizing the need for a more ambitious and science-based target, the City recently joined Race to Zero, with a goal of carbon neutrality and net zero emissions by 2050. The CAWP outlines the strategies, actions and initiatives that will help us get started to reach that goal.

Led by Sustainability Officer Mindy Granley, the CAWP is the result of an iterative process involving eleven different City departments and two outside consultants: Great Plains Institute and Common Spark Consulting. The CAWP builds upon the efforts of community members and organizations that have been driving climate action in Duluth for several years. The City Sustainability Advisory Team (C-SAT) carefully integrated components of the Duluth Citizen’s Climate Action Plan and the Imagine Duluth 2035 Plan into the CAWP, to prioritize citizens’ voices and accelerate ongoing projects.

What does the CAWP consist of?

The CAWP details numerous climate actions that can be implemented within the next one to five years across City departments. The actions outlined in the plan are based upon nine strategies that were listed in the Climate Emergency Declaration as essential to addressing climate change, and these nine strategies are woven into each part of the CAWP (see graphic on the right). Phase I of the CAWP builds a foundation for how the City can bring down emissions and prepares the City for acceleration of climate action called out in Phase II.

Phase I consists of six parts, ranging from actions the City can take to reduce municipal emissions, to strategies for eliminating institutional barriers to better enable climate action. Examples include prioritizing electric and hybrid vehicles in City fleet, and further investing in solar, including how to increase resident participation in renewable energy. Each section lists key leaders needed for success, whether it be a specific City department or needed community partners. Resources needed are also listed for each action (i.e additional staff capacity, new infrastructure, etc.). Ending the first phase is a list of shovel-ready and shovel-worthy projects; these are ready for implementation and will be prioritized for funding requests, when available.

Phase II of the CAWP is all about accelerating climate action, calling out the need for climate-integrated infrastructure, community-wide decarbonization, and support for community-centered projects. The Appendix also details potential funding pathways for the climate actions identified in the plan. Both Phase I and II require collaboration across City departments, and community sectors. To fully achieve our goal, we will need to work with all stakeholders, including community-based organizations, businesses, industry and our residents.

Thank you to the members of the City Sustainability Advisory Team for creating these first steps on a path towards decarbonization and community resilience with the CAWP. This will be an integral step in supporting the City’s ambitious climate goals and ensuring that our community is operating in a sustainable way for generations to come.

Written by Julia Forberg, Energy and Sustainability Assistant, April 2022

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