Casco Bay Coastal Academy: Integrating Climate Action into Municipal Planning Processes

YouTube video


In the “Casco Bay Coastal Academy: Climate Action Planning Webinar” by the New England Environmental Finance Center, the speakers discuss the different ways municipalities can engage in climate action planning. They emphasize the importance of integrating climate action strategies into existing planning processes, as well as partnering with local, regional, and state organizations. This article will delve into the key points of the webinar, providing a comprehensive understanding of climate action planning and its significance for municipalities.

Understanding Climate Action Planning

Climate action planning involves developing an integrated report that identifies strategies to achieve emission reductions and build resilience. Municipalities can approach climate action planning in three main ways: developing a standalone climate action plan, incorporating climate action into existing planning processes, or partnering with external organizations to advance climate action. The approach chosen depends on factors such as capacity, funding, time, energy, resources, and political will. Each community’s values also play a crucial role in determining their engagement level in climate action planning.

Integrating Climate Action into Municipal Planning Processes

Many municipalities may not have the resources or full support to develop a comprehensive climate action plan. However, there are still ways to integrate climate action strategies across different departments within the local government. This approach ensures that all staff members are actively involved in creating a more sustainable and resilient community.

Establishing Internal Standards and Processes

Municipalities can start by incorporating climate action goals and strategies into their comprehensive plans. These plans set benchmarks and goals for climate resilience and sustainability. It is crucial to include climate data in any plans and consider the potential impact of climate change on future projects and growth areas. Other planning processes, such as open space plans, neighborhood plans, and agricultural plans, can also be utilized to increase sustainability and resilience.

Budgeting for Sustainability

Incorporating sustainability projects into the budgeting process is another effective way to promote climate action. Municipalities should prioritize projects based on their benefits, considering factors like public health, climate action, and the welfare of vulnerable populations. By factoring in the long-term benefits and cost-effectiveness of sustainable infrastructure improvements, municipalities can make informed budget decisions that align with their climate action goals.

Implementing Climate-Focused Ordinances

Enacting climate-focused ordinances is a powerful tool to design for the future and address existing vulnerabilities. These ordinances can range from EV (electric vehicle) readiness requirements for new developments to stretch building codes that promote energy efficiency. Other examples include landscape ordinances that encourage native vegetation and reduce pesticide usage, as well as flood or land codes that consider the potential impacts of climate change. It is essential to ensure that these ordinances are enforceable and that all staff members are trained to implement them effectively.

Communication, Outreach, and Education

To maximize the impact of climate action initiatives, municipalities should prioritize communication, outreach, and education efforts. These activities help raise awareness about climate change, sustainability practices, and the importance of community engagement. By fostering a sense of urgency and providing the public with adequate information, municipalities can encourage widespread support for climate action measures.

GP Cog’s Process for Community Engagement

The Greater Portland Council of Governments (GP Cog) is actively engaged with several member communities in climate action planning. They have developed a process based on best practices and leverage the work conducted by the State of Maine and the Maine Climate Council. GP Cog’s process involves several stages, including preparation and data collection, development of greenhouse gas emissions inventories, vulnerability assessments, department head interviews and surveys, mapping and data collection, and community engagement exercises. The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive climate action plan that reflects community values and priorities.


Climate action planning is an essential component of municipal governance, enabling communities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. By integrating climate action strategies into existing planning processes, municipalities can effectively address sustainability and resilience challenges. Partnerships with local, regional, and state organizations further enhance the impact of climate action efforts. It is crucial for municipal governments to prioritize collaboration, engagement, and long-term planning to create a sustainable and resilient future for their communities.

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