American Cities Climate Challenge
As hubs of talent and innovation, American cities are uniquely positioned to take bold action to fight climate change and improve the health, economy, and well-being of their residents. Launched in 2019, the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge provides powerful resources and support to 25 U.S. mayors as they accelerate climate action, using a holistic approach that focuses on clean buildings and transportation.
With support from the Climate Challenge, 25 cities set out to show how bold, local action can have an outsize impact on climate change and can improve people’s lives in a real way. Even during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Climate Challenge cities rose to the occasion and demonstrated that the fight against climate change is also a fight for public health, economic recovery, and social justice. These 25 cities have tested and implemented successful climate policies and programs spanning the transportation, buildings, and energy sectors that cities, states, and the federal government can learn from. Click here to learn more about the policies, programs and climate wins throughout the Climate Challenge.
Below, we share additional resources and publications developed by the Climate Challenge to support cities and climate practitioners in their climate and equity initiatives.
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Resources and Publications
Buildings are the single-largest user of energy in the United States, accounting for about 40 percent of nationwide energy consumption and as much as 75 percent of total energy consumption in densely populated cities. Recognizing the enormous potential to derive multiple benefits from this sector, Climate Challenge cities undertook an array of ambitious policies and initiatives designed to reduce fossil fuel usage and improve energy performance, affordability, and health of buildings across their portfolios.
This publication developed in partnership with USDN walks government staff and practitioners through the emerging practice of centering equity in sustainable buildings policies and programs. It outlines strategies for interdisciplinary approaches that are guided by specific community needs. The framework examines critical equity intersections including health, housing, and economic opportunity. This framework highlights, incorporates, and builds on the longstanding work of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities, leaders, and organizations.
This publication identifies specific equity considerations and strategies related to a building performance standard (BPS) policy, which generally establishes targets for buildings to reduce energy use or greenhouse gas emissions over time. In addition, successful BPS policies include complementary support programs and assistance for covered buildings, local workforce, and historically underserved populations.
This is a resource with plug-and-play policy language for jurisdictions considering taking a “lead by example” approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their built environment. Many jurisdictions have led by example with energy efficiency policies in their owned and occupied assets, but this resource helps shift the focus toward zero emissions construction and operation for government-owned and occupied buildings.
What kinds of initiatives put a city on the path to equitable decarbonization and future net zero emissions? How do policies for new and existing buildings, the power grid, and transportation come together to create a decarbonized portfolio? What role does the equity imperative for action, as well as equitable process and outcomes, play? These slides provide a template for cities to frame the broader equitable decarbonization landscape for their audiences and set the context for deeper dives into the specific initiatives under consideration. Editable PowerPoint version available here.
This primer provides a brief overview of building electrification, and the many benefits associated with electrification.
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Benchmarking and Transparency
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why requiring benchmarking—the process of tracking a building’s current energy and water consumption—is a foundational energy policy. When made public and transparent, this data helps building owners compare energy usage across similar structures, monitor progress, and guide next steps toward cutting waste.
This primer provides a brief overview of energy use in buildings and the benefits of reducing energy consumption.
What is Benchmarking and Transparency? How does it work, and what are its benefits? These slides provide a template for cities to use to explain the basics and benefits of a Benchmarking & Transparency policy. Editable PowerPoint version available here.
A brief overview of Benchmarking and Transparency policies: what they are, how they work, energy and cost savings seen in implementing cities, and benefits created.
A deeper dive into why the transparency of energy information is crucial for unlocking the potential of a Benchmarking and Transparency policy. It provides information on what transparency looks like, and how transparency can benefit building owners, governments, and the public, and how it boosts other complementary energy initiatives.
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Fossil fuel consumption continues to drive the climate crisis—and most of that dirty energy is then used to power cities, the hubs of our social and economic activity. As such, cities have an outsize role to play in building our clean energy future. As part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, 25 cities are laying the groundwork for a world run on clean, renewable energy— while improving their residents’ health and creating jobs along the way.
The Renewables Accelerator provides cutting-edge tools, resources and technical assistance to help U.S. cities advance ambitious renewable energy goals. The Renewables Accelerator helps cities understand renewables-related procurement options, deployment strategies and best practices, building on successful prior work with cities, corporate energy buyers, utilities and regulators. Check out the website for a full set of resources and publications related to off-site large renewables procurement, local on-site renewable energy and support for utility, regulatory and policy engagement.
This policy primer provides an overview of steps Climate Challenge cities are taking on renewable energy projects, and the benefits of increasing renewable energy.
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All climate policies and actions have economic impacts that result in increased supply or demand for certain types of goods and services. The details of a climate policy determine whether economic outcomes are equitable or if they maintain the status quo. Without intentionally working to correct for inequities, climate policies will inadvertently perpetuate further inequities by reinforcing exclusionary practices, low-road jobs, and wealth disparities. Climate Challenge cities worked with partners to learn how to harness the opportunities to support equitable economic outcomes through climate policies.
This primer is a brief overview of Economic Inclusion, High-Road Jobs, and the Climate Jobs Imperative: what are they, why are they needed, and local government’s role; includes a glossary of terms, early steps to take, and links to additional resources.
This guide is a step-by-step planning tool to assist city staff in developing a High Road Workforce Plan. It is designed to help city sustainability staff and presupposes no pre-existing knowledge or experience with workforce planning. This guide will help sustainability staff incorporate high-road workforce planning into their overall climate planning through a six-step strategic planning method.
In collaboration with Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Upright Consulting, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Inclusive Economics, the learning series was aimed at helping local government staff understand the connections between climate policies and economic inclusion, hear from peer cities, learn about city-community-labor collaboration, and identify funding opportunities for next steps.
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Equity Resources and Case Studies
A number of Climate Challenge cities have launched initiatives with co-equal climate and equity goals. The case studies below provide a snapshot of the innovative practices and learnings from Climate Challenge actions to share what this work looks like and why it is important.
This summary document includes slides and links to additional resources on transportation equity in infrastructure bill implementation shared during a three-part Spring 2022 webinar series hosted by the Climate Challenge.
- Boston Contractors Academy, a case study on diversifying and expanding the workforce for net zero buildings.
- Building Green Saint Paul, a case study on supporting a union-driven, high-road jobs approach to climate action.
- Charlotte Regional Transportation Coalition, a case study on developing a coalition of neighborhood groups for sustainable transportation.
- Denver Ballot Measure 2A, a case study on engaging community and centering equity in passing a new sales tax to fund city climate action.
- Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program, a case study on a national training and certification course for electricians installing electric vehicle supply equipment.
- Equity Capacity Building Fund, a case study on providing targeted, short-term funding to support equity in ongoing projects.
- Greenlink Energy Maps (GEM), a case study on how equity data is being used by the cities of Portland, Atlanta and Philadelphia to inform climate programs and policies.
- Los Angeles Decarbonization Studies, a case study on engaging communities to build momentum for building decarbonization.
- San Jose Building Electrification Plan, a case study on centering community priorities related to building electrification opportunities.
- WarmUp Cincy, a case study on a city program to improve energy efficiency in low-income homes.
- Washington DC BEPs and Resource Hub, a case study on addressing the unique needs of affordable housing in a building performance policy.
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Gas-guzzling automobiles are a major contributor to climate change. Electric vehicles are becoming mainstream, but the vast majority of vehicles still run on fossil fuels. Climate Challenge cities are working to supercharge the EV revolution by building out EV infrastructure, electrifying city fleets, and encouraging consumers to make the switch.
This short primer outlines the benefits of vehicle electrification and describes some of the main strategies Climate Challenge cities have used to promote EV adoption.
This memo provides an introduction to EV readiness ordinances. It gives examples of ordinance coverage and percentage requirements in various ordinances and outlines secondary policy elements necessary to consider.
This memo, prepared for the City of Indianapolis by the Solar Foundation, provides a comprehensive comparison of the cost of installing EV-Capable, EV-Ready, and EV-Installed charging infrastructure both during construction (new construction) and during retrofit.
This memo from the Solar Foundation outlines costs and benefits of EV readiness ordinances, shares best practices for ordinance development, and provides example ordinance language.
This slide deck, presented with the Electrification Coalition, Proterra, and BYD North America, provides an overview of bus electrification opportunities, including state of the market, available e-bus models, costs and benefits, funding sources and how cities can promote bus electrification.
This flyer, prepared by Forth for the City of Los Angeles and distributed in both English and Spanish, is an example of how cities can outreach to rideshare drivers to educate them about the financial benefits of electric vehicles.
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Streets across the country have been largely dedicated to automobiles for the past century, which has made more sustainable transportation options less attractive. Climate Challenge cities worked to shift the balance by setting aside road space for bus and bike lanes, which give people safe and convenient alternatives to driving.
This flyer explains the ways that dedicated bus lanes move people more efficiently, make cities safer and more sustainable, and improve transportation for low-income travelers.
Prepared by Nelson\Nygaard in collaboration with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, TriMet, and staff from four other cities’ transportation departments and regional transit agencies, this toolkit serves as a guide to both identifying methods for evaluating transit projects and communicating these benefits to stakeholders.
This flyer outlines the environmental, economic, and safety benefits of protected bike lanes.
This blog post from Delivery Associates explains the benefits of dedicated bus lanes and highlights ways that Washington, D.C., Portland, and Honolulu overcame challenges to implement bus lane projects.
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Parking and Transportation Demand Management (TDM)
Transportation demand management refers to a broad set of strategies that cities can use to decrease the number of car trips people take. One of the most powerful of these strategies is parking reform - providing copious free parking encourages driving. Additionally, cities are implementing TDM policies that ensure new developments create infrastructure and incentives to support walking, biking, and public transit use.
This blog post from Delivery Associates explains the downsides of parking requirements, highlights cities engaging in parking reform efforts, and identifies strategies for local governments interested in this issue.
This flyer highlights the ways that minimum parking requirements increase construction costs, make housing more scarce, and undermine climate goals by increasing the amount people drive.
Prepared by the Urban Land Institute, this memo provides support to help communicate the benefits of parking reform to residents, developers, and policymakers. The memo addresses parking minimum reductions, parking maximums, shared parking, and unbundled parking and contains messaging strategies tailored to each.
This memo outlines best practices in employer-sponsored transit pass programs using case studies from Stanford University, Dallas County, and Santa Clara County.
This guide, prepared by Nelson\Nygaard, summarizes lessons learned from TDM and parking policy development in partnership with several Climate Challenge cities.
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Land Use and Real Estate
Throughout the Climate Challenge, the Urban Land Institute hosted technical assistance panels (TAPs) to help communities solve difficult land use, development, and redevelopment challenges. Drawing from its membership base, ULI offers objective and responsible guidance on a variety of land use and real estate issues ranging from site-specific projects to public policy questions. The recommendations from each TAP were captured in reports, which can serve as case studies for projects in other cities.
- Denver. In Denver, panelists gave recommendations for right-sizing off-street parking and managing on-street parking through regulation and pricing.
- San José. In San José, panelists were tasked with identifying solutions for lowering parking costs for developers and recommended policies that encourage “just right” parking and acknowledge the need for flexible regulations.
- Atlanta. In Atlanta, panelists offered recommendations for how parking regulation can be paired with transportation demand management to make low-parking developments feasible in a city where a large percentage of residents rely on cars.
- Charlotte. In Charlotte, panelists addressed how the city could best implement its Strategic Energy Action Plan by embedding resilience and innovation into citywide initiatives and the comprehensive plan, centering equity, mandating low-carbon development strategies, and working in concert with the private sector, academics, and other partners.
- Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, panelists recommended that the city could promote transit-oriented development by reforming the zoning code, empowering community development corporations, partnering with the local transit agency, and streamlining the development review process.
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Photo Captions and Credits
Top row (L-R):
- Downtown skyline. City of Charlotte, NC. Photo credit: Logan Cyrus for NRDC/NRDC Action Fund.
- Informational display boards. City of San Jose, CA. Photo credit: Stephen Lam for NRDC.
- Rooftop solar panels. City of Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: Caroline Yang for NRDC.
Middle row (L-R):
- Shared lane installation. City of Atlanta, GA. Photo credit: Dustin Chambers for NRDC/NRDC Action Fund.
- Denver Streets Partnership. City of Denver, CO. Photo credit: Matt Nager for NRDC.
- Municipal EV sharing pilot. City of Boston, MA. Photo credit: Kat Eshel for City of Boston.
Bottom row (L-R):
- Lane markers for bicycle lane City of Honolulu, HI. Photo credit: Marco Garcia for NRDC/NRDC Action Fund.
- Mobility hub pilot program. City of Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit: NRDC Action Fund.
- Streetcar pass Fifth Third Bank building. City of Cincinnati, OH. Photo credit: Luke Sharrett for NRDC.