Jun 05, 2022

How nonprofits and activists impact local climate governance

Flood | by Wendy Erickson | 2 Minutes

Local Climate Governance

Monitoring and mitigating climate change at a local level is important. Local governments and nonprofits are often the first to recognize and respond to localized climate impacts, from fires to sea level rise. Their strong connections to the community are the key for identifying the adaptation and mitigation strategies that will work best for the needs of that area. Local climate activists fill a crucial role in climate governance by:

  • Gathering data on local emissions sources and patterns
  • Responding to natural disaster and working on mitigation strategies for climate-related severe weather
  • Creating programs and solutions that fulfill the needs specific to a community
  • Providing resources and climate education
  • Participating in and collaborating with state and federal programs

A Local Climate Perspective: Cindy Jayne

Cindy Jayne is on the front lines of addressing climate change through community action in Washington State. For her, working at the local level is “something you can have an impact on… to provide valuable data and support others taking action.” Jayne is on the board of Local 20/20, a group that works on both preparing for the impact of climate change and finding opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within her community in Jefferson County.

One such effort, the Washington King Tides Program, asks locals to take photos to document where winter high tides are reaching relative to buildings and infrastructure in their city. Having access to this information can help scientists and decision makers identify localized vulnerabilities to storm surge, such as historic downtown buildings and ferry dock infrastructure.

Gathering data is a first, crucial, step to understand sources of emissions before it is possible to address them as a community. For example, the Jefferson County/Port Townsend Action Committee completed a greenhouse gas inventory to model current emissions. A takeaway from this process was that a large proportion of local emissions are a result of transportation. As a result, Local 20/20 and other local groups introduced a “Car Free Day” to bring awareness to the issue.

Climate and Community, Continued…

Climate change has a broad influence. As Jayne mentions, “We need leadership at every level and in every organization. Between the broad impacts of climate change, as well as opportunities for reducing our emissions, there’s no organization that’s not impacted.”

She says that while it is important that individuals do what they can to address climate change, it is also important to look at broader infrastructure changes. Having support from the state and federal level, especially for funding of climate programs, is crucial. Using the tools provided by “ICLEI - Local Governments and Sustainability” helped the county complete the greenhouse gas inventory and model forest sequestration of carbon.

Jayne points to the many talented and motivated individuals that participate in the efforts of local climate groups. “It's been seen across the world that cities and counties have a critical role because that's where a lot of action can take place.” Through local organizations, government, data and emissions reports, climate action plans, and more, an individual can have a real stake in the global issue of climate change. Each local effort is just one small part of tackling a global issue, but across thousands of communities, it makes a difference.