Co-Creating Salem’s Climate Action Plan

Our work to co-create a Climate Action Plan for Salem, Oregon, is wrapping up after an eventful 18 months. The final draft was released in November and the City Council is expected to vote on the Plan in January.

The City’s resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2035 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 guided the project. Our four-part process (visioning, vulnerability assessment, strategy development, and implementation planning) kicked off with residents envisioning what a climate-smart Salem would look like in 2050. We gathered hundreds of strategies with the help of the community, then refined that list more than 20 times to create a Climate Action Plan that residents can be proud of.

We formed a local Task Force made up of 40 community members, city staff, and business and nonprofit leaders from diverse industries. We also tapped climatologists, emergency response managers, utilities experts, and others to ensure the Plan accounted for local context. We appreciate the dedication, passion, collaboration, and energy that each of these Task Force members and experts contributed to the Plan!

Not only did we lead this project virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Salem experienced a number of extreme weather events in the last year and a half. There were nearby wildfires that produced unhealthy air quality, ice storms, and extreme rainfall and flooding events. These events and the consequences that followed emphasized the importance and urgency of climate action in Salem. 

Our public engagement plan utilized a climate justice framework designed to create space for people to voice ideas and concerns around equity. We partnered with community leaders to conduct outreach and used different mediums such as radio ads in languages other than English to support their efforts. We also recommended that the City adopt equity criteria to ensure their strategies improve outcomes for everyone.

My colleague Belyna Bentlage said she is most proud of the fact that we customized our entire process to Salem. Not only did we co-create a meaningful Climate Action Plan with the Task Force, but it is tailored to Salem’s realities and climate vulnerabilities.

I am most proud of the way that we gathered so much valuable information and successfully synthesized it into final document and strategy list that will be valuable for years to come. 

To learn more about our planning process, download our free guide to creating a Climate Action Plan. Check out our website to read about our newest service, the Net Zero Pathway, and keep up with our team on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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