Government Climate Policies

State and National Policies

There are various policies which towns, cities, counties, states, and nations can adopt to directly or indirectly reduce emissions within their boundaries, and an increasing portion are adopting these. State and national policies for emission reductions could include a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), renewable fuels standard (RFS), cap-and-trade system, carbon tax, specific utility regulations, building codes, transportation plans, etc. Cities, counties, and towns can have a more immediate effect on emissions because they can move faster and their constituents typically feel the pollution effects of fossil fuels more than rural populations.

Examples of global emissions planning include A Roadmap for Rapid Decarbonization and periodic plans published by the International Energy Agency. Similar planning is possible at a national or state level. Mark Jacobson and the Solutions Project have published a detailed study for 100% decarbonization of Washington state. Eric Strid has proposed top-down implications of 100% decarbonization for Oregon, along with exploratory economic and policy options.

Community-level Climate Action Plans

Community emission goal optionsIndividual and company GHG reductions are necessary, but even if half the world had zero emissions that wouldn’t sufficiently mitigate the climate crisis. As with your personal footprint, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions extend well beyond the necessities of the climate crisis. Cost savings accrue through efficiency improvements and lower fuel consumption. Two thirds of prospective homebuyers favor walkability, resulting in more livable neighborhoods. And toxic fossil-fuel emissions are estimated to cause 50,000 to 100,000 premature deaths in the US.


There are many examples of clean energy plans or climate action plans adopted by cities, including PortlandCorvallis, and Eugene in Oregon, and in New York state and California. The EPANew YorkMichigan and other states have published guides to help cities and towns develop a climate action plan.

Community-level planning must decide the scope (the processes used to cause reductions) and scale (the geographical area being addressed) of the plan. Scope options generally include the municipality reducing its own footprint or forcing community footprint reductions, such as through building codes; incentivizing changes; or supporting programs of others.

Most infrastructure is intended to last for 50 years or longer, and their planning thus requires long-term goals and deliberative planning processes. Infrastructure investments are very expensive and must be planned with collaboration from all stakeholders, especially the different types of infrastructure. For example, energy infrastructure is cheaper and more efficient when integrated with transportation, water, and waste infrastructure instead of being managed from agency silos. The future of infrastructure is affordable, resilient, sustainable, and integrated.