Climate-Smart Lincoln Launches Draft Climate Action Plan

The City of Lincoln, Nebraska launched its draft Climate Action plan yesterday. One of Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s top priorities is to be well-informed about the challenges climate change poses to the city. Leading as a climate-smart city, she commissioned Verdis Group to develop a Climate Action Plan to illuminate how the City of Lincoln can become more resilient.

Leading the City of Lincoln through this process has been an honor, and working with a community in our backyard made this an exciting and rewarding project.

We strive to create a world where people and the planet flourish in harmony. We know that climate change presents a range of challenges to the systems in which we live, but we also know that with forward-looking insight, those challenges can become opportunities. It is more important than ever before for cities to know their climate impacts and to chart a course to become a more resilient and thriving community in spite of them.

This plan is the result of a detailed planning process that thoughtfully engaged multiple stakeholders through a 15-month timeframe. Some of the communities represented included: business, government, non-profit, faith, educational, public health, emergency management, immigrant and refugee, those with disabilities, and low-income residents. The result of that engagement is a Plan that is truly tailored to the City of Lincoln and the people who call it home. This Plan is a living document that will provide a roadmap to the kinds of policies and practices that will be needed to ensure Lincoln is a climate-smart city in the future. 

The Process

Every good plan begins with research. Our first step in the process was to review the solid progress the City of Lincoln had already made related to sustainability and resilience. We reviewed numerous city plans to make sure we understood current local conditions. We established baselines and possible climate risks in our community by consulting with local and regional climatologists, gathering past and projected climate data, determining projected water demand based on climate and population growth projections, accessing demographic data, and reviewing transportation data, floodplain maps, and other hazard maps.

We then facilitated multiple workshops, full group meetings and one-on-one meetings with a Climate Resilience Task Force, Sustainability Working Group, Mayor’s Environmental Task Force and other stakeholders. Some of the communities represented included: business, government, non-profit, faith, educational, public health, emergency management, immigrant and refugee, those with disabilities, and low-income residents.  

We use a tiered program of community engagement that allows for an iterative process of knowledge-building and strategy prioritization. We use consensus-based decision-making models informed by Technology of Participation methodology to guide our facilitation of meetings and workshops. These methods allow us to facilitate in ways that are equitable, inclusive, efficient, and which drive stakeholder ownership of the final product. We integrate the input that comes from key stakeholders with our own expertise in greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation strategies to create a Plan that is broad-based, inclusive, equitable, detailed, and customized to local solutions. 

We used our Four Pillars planning process to guide stakeholders through the development of the plan. 

  1. Visioning
  2. Vulnerability Assessment
  3. Goal-Setting and Strategy Development
  4. Implementation Planning

The process so far has gone through Pillars 1-3. We are excited that the Mayor’s announcement now moves the process into the public engagement phase, which is the final part of Step 3. In this phase, the public will have the chance to engage with the plan and to provide their feedback and suggestions to make the plan even more relevant. In 2021, we plan to lead stakeholders through Implementation Planning, the final Planning Pillar.

The Plan

The plan includes three overarching Strategic Directions:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. The 80×50 commitment is a goal that has been adopted by many cities across the U.S. and the world, as communities strive to reduce emissions and slow the pace of global warming. This is an all-encompassing, visionary goal that invites everyone in Lincoln to play a part in transitioning to a low-carbon future.
  • Building resilience to future climate hazards. This strategic vision emphasizes the main goal of the plan, which is to build resilience to climate hazards.
  • Strategic climate directions and resilience will be integrated throughout City actions and ordinances. The vision for this plan is ultimately that it will not exist as a separate document, but that its recommendations will be woven into the planning and policy work the City does regularly. Already, many of the recommendations will be adopted into the Comprehensive Plan, which will be updated next year.

We made sure to take a close look at issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our planning process, understanding environmental justice concerns that the impacts of climate change will be felt disproportionately among Lincoln residents. Race and ethnicity, along with a variety of social, cultural, economic, and political factors combine and contribute to a person’s vulnerability related to climate change. An individual, family, or community may face several aspects of vulnerability due to the multi-faceted social conditions in which they exist. Understanding the interconnectedness of factors such as demographics, access and affordability of housing, food security, mobility, employment, health and healthcare is crucial to helping the city better prevent and prepare for climate-related risks faced by the city’s most vulnerable people.

The Plan includes over 600 strategy ideas organized into eight Action Areas of climate solutions:

  1. Transition to low-carbon energy
  2. Build a decarbonized and efficient transportation system
  3. Align economic development goals with climate realities to ensure a thriving economy
  4. Improve protections for and with Lincoln residents
  5. Build a resilient local food system
  6. Maximize natural climate solutions
  7. Reduce waste
  8. Engage residents in co-creating a climate smart future

To review the plan in its entirety or in Executive Summary form, please go to the City of Lincoln Resilient Lincoln webpage.

Our process allowed us to create a thorough and innovative Climate Action Plan that will lead the City of Lincoln to a more resilient future. We look forward to the public engagement process and to the eventual adoption and implementation of forward-thinking strategies to make Lincoln a thriving, resilient, and climate-smart city.

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