Not according to plan: Exploring gaps in city climate planning and the need for regional action

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The growing threats from climate change leave the global population no choice: We must decarbonize human activity as soon as possible. That includes changing how we build, travel, generate power, and more to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Achieving such transformative change will require a mix of policy reforms, new technologies, and significant capital investments. Under ideal circumstances, cities, national governments, global organizations, and private business owners would seamlessly work together to orchestrate actions that deliver results at the scale and speed the planet needs. 

The question now is whether cities are well-positioned to do their part—and the current landscape is discouraging. While many cities have drafted “climate action plans” that pledge specific GHG emissions reductions, they are struggling to hit their targets. One gap in city climate planning and action is internal, with cities often failing to specify detailed strategies that will advance their goals. The other gap is regional: Individual cities do not have the fiscal, technical, or programmatic capacity to single-handedly drive decarbonization across their metropolitan regions, and often, they do not coordinate with other jurisdictions.  

This report attempts to better understand why cities are failing to meet their targets and what can be learned from the planning practices that are working well. By evaluating the most comprehensive decarbonization plans across 50 of the country’s largest cities, the report judges how well the strategies and actions in these plans prepare cities for meaningful, accountable decarbonization.

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