The definitive guide to achieving your municipal climate action plan

6 min read

Take your climate change action plan from the bookshelf to real-world results. Having a strategy that identifies barriers, assess costs, assigns responsibility, and creates timelines, will help your municipality successfully implement its climate action plan.

Your municipality already has a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, emissions reduction target, and a climate action plan in place. But you are not sure how to start seeing real savings and real change in your community.

Follow these general steps to take your plan from concept to reality.

The first step to making progress on a climate change action plan is an implementation strategy.

An implementation strategy should answer these questions:

  1. How much money is available?
  2. When should the work be done by?
  3. Who is going to get the work done?

Need help answering these questions? Connect with Alberta’s Regional Climate Advisor (that’s us!). We can help you develop an implementation strategy for your climate action plan through the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Program.

1. Calculate costs and find funding

There are many ways for your municipality to pay for initiatives in your climate action plan.

Does your municipality have a municipal reserve? A special savings plan for climate action initiatives? Are you eligible for grants or government funding?

The first step is to understand the financial position of your municipality, and the business case for each initiative. This will highlight your municipality’s economic development potential and help identify which initiatives to complete first.

Climate action initiatives are a major catalyst for growing and diversifying local economies and creating jobs in your community.

By researching the capital and operational costs required, you can calculate costs savings, return on investment, and payback period to help illustrate the financial impact of each initiative.

Tip: It is better to know how much money you have available before finalizing a prioritized list of initiatives in your implementation plan.

These are some common questions that you will want to answer:

  • Can existing departmental plans and budgets incorporate any of the climate action initiative’s costs?
  • What climate action initiatives will require new expenditures and how much will they each cost?
  • What savings/co-benefits will result from completing initiatives from the climate action plan?
  • To want extent is funding available in the current municipal budget or can funding be re-directed?
  • What alternative funding sources, grants, financing options are you eligible for?
  • What is the lifecycle cost of the project?

Funding available

There are multiple grants available from non-profits, provincial, and federal organizations that can help support your climate action plan.

  • The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s six funding programs support Alberta municipalities seeking to address climate change by reducing GHG emissions.
  • The Government of Alberta recently announced a billion-dollar investment into Alberta’s municipalities for infrastructure projects.
  • The Federation of Canadian Municipalities provides funding opportunities to municipalities across Canada.
  • The Government of Canada hosts a directory of energy efficiency and alternative energy funding programs in Canada.

Tip: Download the Alberta Funding Guide. This guide provides information about funding programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects available to municipalities in Alberta.

2. Make a Schedule

Now that you know how much money the plan will cost to implement, and how your municipality could pay for it, it is time to design a schedule.

The best way to start implementing initiatives from your climate action plan is to outline an approximate time frame for each initiative’s completion.

Having a time frame will help you track progress as initiatives are completed. By tracking progress, your municipality will be better able to support the staff responsible for continuing to complete an initiative.

Climate action plans identify the year that all the initiatives will be completed by. This target year, set in your plan, will be aligned with how much your municipality wants to reduce GHG emissions by.

Allow time to meet the emissions reduction target by creating an implementation schedule for each initiative. We recommend that municipal senior staff and council work with the people responsible for completing the work to develop a reasonable schedule. Getting commitment from everyone involved at the beginning of a project will assure all that the project will get done.

Planning does not end with implementation. The existing plan should be revisited on a regular basis and updated to reflect any changes.

3. Assign responsibility

Now that you know how much your plan will cost, how it will be paid for, and a timeline for completing the initiatives, it is time to engage the team.

Identify the individual, group, or department in your municipality that will be responsible for each initiative detailed in your climate action plan. Climate action initiatives and planning documents often overlap across many departments in a municipality. Engage senior management and council to delegate responsibilities across the appropriate departments. This creates accountability for your staff.

For example, if one of your initiatives in your plan is to upgrade the lights to LED in your municipal ice rink, you will likely involve the staff who manage and maintain the ice rink for that initiative.

Common departments that may be involved with implementing initiatives from your climate action plan could include:

  • Environment / Sustainability
  • Engineering / Public Works
  • Operations
  • Land Use Planning
  • Transportation
  • Finance
  • Economic Development
  • Communications

Municipal staff that developed the climate action plan, are often responsible for putting the plan into motion. In some cases, external stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, and private sector contractors can also contribute to the implementation of specific projects.

Identify where you will need help outside of your organization to complete an initiative, and then select a resource to help you. This may require putting out a Request for Proposals.

We recommend getting quotes from multiple vendors so your municipality can make an informed decision and get the best price. Pre-qualified vendor lists may be available to assist in this process.

For example, Solar Alberta lists reputable solar service providers.

4. Align initiatives with administrative objectives

Initiatives from the climate action plan should be embedded into other department’s operational and administrative plans and policies, where possible, to ensure the initiatives have traction in your municipality.

This will amplify visibility and engagement in climate action initiatives and will help council and management dedicate appropriate time and resources.

Consider changes to your municipality’s governance model. Communities with governance models that include roles for overseeing the implementation of climate action plans help ensure that climate action remains a priority. Governance functions can occur at various levels, for example:

  • Municipal council
    • Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action
    • Climate Action Committee of Council
  • Municipal staff
    • Staff dedicated to managing the climate action plan
    • Staff Advisory Committee
    • Staff Working Committee
  • Community
    • Community / Public Advisory Committee
    • Relevant Stakeholder Committee

Want help? Milestone 4 of the Partners for Climate Protection program provides a framework to help your municipality implement your action plan. As a PCP member you will have access to resources, tools, and advice to support fulfilling your municipal climate action plan.

Tip: Learn how to turn climate action plans into real, on the ground, progress from the Action Centre and the City of St. Albert.

Get Started

Join the Partners for Climate Protection Program. The PCP program helps your municipality do its part. It consists of a five-step Milestone Framework to help guide you through reduce emissions in your municipality.

The Action Centre supports municipalities like yours by providing advice, tools, workshops, and more.

See real savings and real change for your municipality by joining over 400 municipalities across Canada participating in the Partners for Climate Protection Program.

Have questions?

We are here for you and your community

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Alberta municipalities and their community members are working tirelessly to improve the quality of life in their areas—and we work just as hard to support them every step of the way.

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