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Civic Engagement – Snapshot of Local Agency Programs and Policies 2009


About the Snapshot

In Spring 2009, the Institute for Local Government’s California Climate Action Network surveyed cities and counties to gather information about activities, policies and programs in five areas related to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions: commercial recycling, green building, land use and community design, efficient transportation, and civic engagement.

Case stories were prepared for ten communities to provide more detailed background information. While the information gathered does not reflect the all of the commercial recycling programs in California communities, it does provide a snap shot of trends, opportunities, constraints and lessons learned.

This project was conducted in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

Climate Action Connection: Civic Engagement

Providing reliable and objective information helps residents understand the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. Involving the public in the development of climate change policies and programs builds community awareness and support for local actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including their co-benefits.

Snapshot Summary

A large number of cities and counties engage their residents in discussions about climate change and involve them in developing policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Civic engagement activities include:
  • Informing the public about the science of climate change
  • Informing the public about the agency’s actions to address climate change
  • Providing the public with opportunities for input into the agency’s climate action plan or policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Encouraging the public to contribute ideas and recommendations to the agency’s climate change plan.

Highlights of Local Agency Civic Engagement Activities

  • Many local agencies utilize neighborhood or community meetings to gather ideas and options related to climate change. Working with local media and participating in regional public engagement activities is also widespread.
  • Virtually all local agencies work with stakeholder groups, such as business groups, neighborhood leaders and civic groups, non-profit groups. Some also work with stakeholders representing immigrant, ethnic, low income residents or communities of color.
  • Many local agencies include the community’s youth in climate change civic engagement activities.
  • The use of task forces is widespread in helping local agencies identify issues to address, develop climate action plans or specific policies, and prioritize items for action.

Opportunities, Constraints and Lessons Learned

  • Local agencies can provide practical information to help community members embrace actions to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Most climate change skeptics – those who question whether the earth’s climate is changing or who believe that the change is the result of natural causes, not human behavior – support taking many of the actions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions for other reasons, such as saving money and resources, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and good planning. Be sure they are part of the agency’s deliberations.
  • Young people are interested in climate change and want to do something about it. Soliciting youth input is a good opportunity to energize young people and encourage them to be involved in local government.
  • Because addressing climate change can be overwhelming, breaking into smaller working groups to address specific topics such as transportation, energy efficiency, and education, can make the task more manageable.
  • Match the type of civic engagement activity (i.e., providing information, consulting or collaboration) to the goal of the task.
  • Providing ideas and opportunities for residents to be part of the climate solution through individual action is more effective than doom and gloom messages.

So, What are Counties and Cities Doing?

Click on SNAPSHOT to learn what counties and cities are doing to:

  • promote civic engagement in the context of climate change
  • reach out to the public to further the discussion of climate change
  • engage key community stakeholders on climate change.

Tell Us About Your Agency’s Programs

Would you like your city or county’s civic engagement program to be added to our list? Let us know what your agency is doing to engage the community in climate change activities by completing our short Climate Leadership Survey on Public Engagement.

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