American communities are the wellspring of our national pride, security, and vitality. Local leaders and citizens have worked together to build strong, prosperous, and livable communities in America for centuries.
Today, climate change is impacting our communities and our essential built, social, and natural systems worldwide. Many more Americans and communities have been affected by impacts on property, financial systems, infrastructure, and health from volatile weather, changing rainfall, and extreme temperature shifts. Now that these impacts are visible from our kitchen windows, Americans can no longer dismiss climate change as a remote possibility in a far-off land. And, local communities are bracing for more changes to come.
Because of this, and the potential for leadership and innovation at the local level, communities are a natural and promising place for progress on climate change solutions. Communities on the front line of climate impacts are leading the movement to address this challenge and prepare for the future.
Leading the Way
Local elected leaders have demonstrated that they can ignite climate action more quickly than can be achieved on the national or international levels. These leaders clearly understand the imperative to tackle climate impacts locally, and that even strong national climate policies rely on the choices of ordinary citizens to truly affect positive change.
More than 80% of Americans now live in urban communities, including cities, towns, and populous counties. These communities, where Americans live, learn, work, worship, and vote, are incubators of policy innovation and public engagement.
Local leaders can bring together major sectors of their communities, including health, business, faith, and higher education, to create community-based climate solutions. In partnership with these leaders, local government can engage more deeply with their communities to garner public support.
By empowering local leaders to engage citizens in personally relevant ways, we can build political will for climate change solutions on the local, regional, national, and global levels.
On the Path to a Positive Future
The remarkable climate leadership by local communities paves paths for new communities to follow and leading communities to travel farther along. Best practices are emerging that can be shared. Programs to improve energy and transportation efficiency, expand clean energy, implement smart land and water use, cut waste and pollution, and prepare for climate hazards are garnering greater returns when shown to embrace citizen needs and values.
Hundreds of cities are already leading. More than 200 communities have established sustainability offices and have hired dedicated staff. More than 800 communities have climate action plans, from Reno, NV to Iowa City, IA and Knoxville, TN. This local progress influences national solutions, as policymakers observe the myriad of benefits that accrue to communities working toward a clean energy future.
Now is the time for local leaders to increase action and influence on climate solutions. We have the opportunity to build on existing progress, and elevate our leadership, locally and nationally, to plan and implement solutions to prepare for and prevent further climate change. Path to Positive Communities, and The Path to Positive commitment, provide communities the opportunity to build broad public support for climate solutions, combining institutional leadership with collective action on climate to bring the full force of community leadership where it’s needed most: on solutions that benefit Americans in their communities and across the nation.