[See link at bottom to download the full report]
Developing a climate action plan is an important step that municipalities can take toward climate change mitigation and adaptation. Climate change is a daunting issue. Humanity’s actions have caused the Earth’s climate to dramatically shift with temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions rapidly reaching levels not seen for over 120,000 years. This unnatural increase has caused our planet to warm and climates to shift. There are a lot of factors and components that are included in modeling future climate changes, making it difficult for scientists to predict at what levels we will see these negative effects occur and how quickly they will happen. With that said, it has been even more difficult for governments and local leaders to understand what is happening and to make the changes necessary to protect their cities.
The report provides a framework for municipalities in the Lehigh Valley to kickstart more aggressive plans to mitigate and adapt their cities to climate change. It gives a framework for how cities can begin a climate action plan, mitigation strategies, adaptation strategies, and examples of cities, such as Bethlehem and Easton, moving in the right direction. It includes a general overview of climate change in the Lehigh Valley, ways to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, and charts with mitigation and adaptation actions. The report does not outline specific plans for municipalities in the Lehigh Valley, but instead aims to spark movement and innovation for cities to create their own climate action plans, well-suited to fit their needs and resources.
Municipalities need to consider demographics, income levels, topography, and climate justice in order to produce a holistic climate action plan that will justly serve the needs of the municipality and the entire community. Climate change does not affect every neighborhood equally. Lower income areas are disproportionately more negatively affected by climate change and pollution. They typically have a lower capacity to make changes; therefore lawmakers should make feasible policies and initiatives that are feasible for all community members.
For cities that have not begun work on a climate action plan, we recommend that fostering community engagement and creating a vulnerability assessment be some of the first steps local officials take. Municipalities should come together to assess whether a Valley-wide climate action plan or individual climate action plan will be better suited for municipalities in the Lehigh Valley. It could prove beneficial for municipalities to combine resources and efforts to create a more comprehensive plan. On the other hand, individual plans can be more tailored and detailed to specific municipalities. Local officials need to communicate and look for innovative, realistic ways that they can take serious climate action.
This report was prepared by Courtney Giardina (Lehigh University ’20), Elizabeth Harmon (Lafayette College ’21), and Katherine Volpe (Lehigh University ’21), who researched practices in other communities and developed guidelines that municipalities in the Lehigh Valley could follow to create more environmentally sustainable communities.
This project started in response to uneven progress in climate action planning in the Lehigh Valley, and provided an opportunity for students at Lafayette College and Lehigh University to bring their research and analytical skills to bear on developing a framework to help those who have to create the actual CAP.
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary (above)
- What is Climate Change?
- Climate Change in the Lehigh Valley
- Overview of Climate Action Planning
- Greenhouse Gas Inventories
- Lehigh Valley Climate Action Plan
- Climate Change Mitigation Strategies
- Climate Change Adaptation Strategies
- Additional Resources
- Attachment A: Mitigation Strategies
- Attachment B: Adaptation Strategies