How to reduce greenhouse emissions in your municipality

3-minute read

Setting emission reduction targets and creating climate action plans will help your municipality address climate change.

Setting a greenhouse gas reduction target is a way to communicate your municipality’s commitment to climate action. It demonstrates leadership to citizens and businesses in your municipality. By stating a target and timeframe to reach the target, you will have a goal to guide your initiatives. The target also provides a goal that can be used to report progress.

Targets have three elements:

  1. Percentage reduction, which is the percent that emissions will be reduced by below the base year.
  2. Base year, which is the year that is being compared to.
  3. Target year, which is the year that the reduction will be achieved.

The emission reduction target is communicated using all three elements and is stated as a percentage reduction from base year by target year.

For example, the Government of Canada has set its national emissions reduction target to 30% below 2005 base levels by 2030.


Developing a greenhouse gas inventory is the first step towards setting an emission reduction target. An inventory tracks how much and where greenhouse gases are being emitted.

Tip: Read more about greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

The second step is to set an emissions reduction target. Here are two methods for choosing a target:

  1. A top-down method is when a target is set first, followed by action planning and analysis. This is used to align with targets in provincial, federal, or other jurisdictions. Using this method, targets are aggressive and quickly created with a low development cost.
  2. A bottom-up method is when a target is chosen by identifying climate actions and their emission reduction potentials. Using this method, targets are more certain and align with other policies, plans, and actions you already have in place.

What is a good reduction target?

A strong target is realistic, achievable, meaningful, and reflects the need for significant action on climate change. The Partners for Climate Protection Program offers these recommendations for corporate and community targets:

  • Corporate – 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for municipal operations within 10 years. This type of target focuses on the impacts of internal operations and contracted services.
  • Community – 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the entire municipality within 10 years. Community scale emission reduction targets make a larger statement about a municipality’s commitment to climate change action. Progress towards achieving the target makes an even bigger statement.

Tip: Set targets for both corporate and community emissions.

What is a local action plan?

A local action plan details your municipality’s steps to achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Some municipalities create a dedicated climate action plan, while others include climate action goals within other strategic plans.

Typically, a local action plan consists of three elements:

  1. policy or statement of commitment about working towards the target,
  2. strategies that detail the approaches being taken and,
  3. details describing the actions that, when implemented, will help accomplish the strategy.

Tip: View climate action plans from other municipalities.

Emissions reduction initiatives mitigate the impacts of climate change and create both economic and quality of life co-benefits. Targets and plans can create energy cost savings, help diversify local economies, and provide other benefits like improved air quality. They also create opportunities to learn and network with other municipalities.


Join the Partners for Climate Protection Program. This program consists of a five-step Milestone Framework that guides you as you take action against climate change by reducing emissions in your municipality.

See real savings and real change for your municipality

Join over 400 municipalities across Canada participating in the Partners for Climate Protection Program.