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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Walk the Talk

Local leaders--whether mayors or school superintendants--have the power to inspire action across whole communities. Critical, though, is walking the talk in your own operations. If a village wants to encourage citizens and businesses to conserve energy, the village hall should be a model of energy efficiency. If a city wants businesses to support biking, the city should have internal policies to promote biking among its own employees. To lead on sustainability across the community, you need to practice sustainability in your own operations.

So where do you start? Some good first steps include:

When local governments adopt these practices they reduce the resource use in government facilities, saving money and reducing emissions. Those activities give local leaders increased credibility to engage citizens and businesses in sustainability efforts. Because you have addressed your own activities first, you can say "we did it and you can too."

 

 

Understand Community-Wide Emissions

As part of developing Dane County's climate action plan, we created a 2017 baseline of Pie chart of Dane County carbon emissions in 2017
carbon and carbon equivalent emissions produced in Dane County. Overall in 2017 Dane County produced about 7.5 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions and more than half of those emissions were associated with the built environment--electricity for buildings as well as natural gas and other fuels that heated those buildings (shown as Residential and Commercial in the chart). More than half of the remaining emissions come from transportation. Industry, agriculture, waste and other activities make up less than a quarter of emissions produced in the County.

Image of area, showing emissions by zip code

 

The County's baseline identifies the total emissions produced in Dane County. Another way to look at emissions is by consumption--looking at the emissions associated with everything folks do in a particular region. Production and consumption emissions will vary--when you buy a car, for example, the emissions associated with making the car (production emissions) happen in another region.

Looking at consumption-based emissions is a good way to understand the total carbon footprint of an entity or even a region because it takes into account your activities as well as all the goods and services you purchase. When it comes to consumption emissions, we appreciate the work done by the Cool Climate Network. The Cool Climate Network offers a consumption-based emissions map that shows how emissions vary by zip code. The mix of emissions--the amount for electricity versus travel--will vary by location. Madison's mix of emissions will be different than Marshall's. Check out the map to see the typical mix of household emissions in your zip code and then use our Household Carbon Calculator to see how your household compares to the typical. 

Other entities - including Climate Trace - are working on additional maps and data associated with greenhouse gas emissions. As those tools become available we'll add links here.


 

 

 

Make a Commitment

If you want to make change happen, it is helpful to set a public goal--to make a commitment and share that commitment with others who can hold you accountable for results. Just as telling friends you plan to lose 10 pounds makes weight loss more likely, when communities set climate and clean energy goals it is more likely they will achieve those goals.

Wisconsin communities have a tradition of setting clean energy goals. Beginning in 2008 more than 140 local governments passed Energy Independent Community resolutions. More recently, communities across Wisconsin have set ambitious climate action goals. Today about 1 in 3 people in Wisconsin live in a community with ambitious climate action goals. 

Local government goals tend to come in two categories:

Within each category, goals might focus on reducing energy use, transitioning to renewable electricity, transitioning to renewable energy (electricity + other forms of energy like transportation fuels), reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or some combination of those objectives. Here in Dane County numerous communities have clean energy and climate goals, as illustrated in the tables below.

Local Governments with Goals for Internal Operations
*Per capita reduction in fossil fuel energy use, rather than total energy reduction
Entity Total Energy
Reduction
Renewable
Electricity
Renewable
Energy
GHG
Emissions 
Dane County       25% by 2025  
Fitchburg 30% by 2030*  
50% by 2050*
 25% by 2025
100% by 2030  
25% by 2025
 
 
Madison    

 25% by 2025
100% by 2030

100% by 2030  
Marshall      60% by 2030
 80% by 2035
100% by 2040  
 
Middleton 15% by 2030
50% by 2050
 25% by 2025
 80% by 2030
100% by 2035
 25% by 2025
 66% by 2030
 88% by 2035
100% by 2040
 
Monona 15% by 2030
40% by 2040
50% by 2050
 35% by 2025
100% by 2030
 25% by 2025
 65% by 2030
 85% by 2035
100% by 2040
 
Stoughton     25% by 2025  
Sun Prairie     25% by 2025  
Waunakee     25% by 2025  

 

Local Governments with Community-Wide Climate or Clean Energy Goals
*Per capita reduction in fossil fuel energy use, rather than total energy reduction
Entity Total Energy
Reduction
Renewable
Electricity
Renewable
Energy
GHG
Emissions
Dane County        50% by 2030
100% by 2050  
Fitchburg 30% by 2030*
50% by 2050*  
     
Madison     100% by 2050   100% by 2050
Marshall      33% by 2030
 66% by 2040
100% by 2050  
 
Middleton 10% by 2030
40% by 2050
 20% by 2025
 66% by 2030
 88% by 2035
100% by 2040  
 21% by 2030
 80% by 2040
100% by 2050
 
Monona 10% by 2030 
40% by 2050
 35% by 2025
 66% by 2030
 88% by 2035
100% by 2040
 20% by 2030
 80% by 2040
100% by 2050
 

Once a community has set goals they can track progress against those goals, just as Dane County is tracking progress on its climate action plan.

 

Address Equity

Climate change exposes some of the systemic inequities in our societies, both locally and globally. Frontline communities that are already struggling to respond to climate change impacts are often communities with lower carbon emissions. Wealthy people tend to have higher emissions than low-income households and wealthy people also have the means to escape climate impacts. In our climate action plan Dane County commits to address equity and social justice because we acknowledge the racism and inequities in the ways we have produced and used fossil fuels historically. We encourage other communities to integrate an equity lens into their climate and clean energy efforts as well.

Screen shot of EJ Screen, showing risk of lead pain in Madison area.To better understand environmental inequities in your community--whether pollution levels are higher in some neighborhoods than others or if some populations are at greater risk for specific toxins--check out EJScreen, which is a mapping tool from the Environmental Protection Agency. The free tool enables you to look at how a variety of environmental risks map onto potentially vulnerable communities. Using EJScreen is a good way to begin to understand some of the environmental inequities in your community.

 

As you begin to think about how to address equity, check out these resources:

It is also useful to take a look at what other communities around the US are doing on equity. Both Providence, RI and Portland, OR have received recognition for their efforts to integrate climate justice into their efforts.

 

 

Inspire Community-Wide Action

Are you ready to inspire businesses and residents to adopt sustainable practices in their own lives? Are you already thinking about how key institutions--local houses of worship or beloved landmarks--can take action that inspires others?

It is exciting to think about how you might inspire deep change across your community. Making sustainabilty the 'new normal' means that everyone would share a commitment to recycling and energy usage and... It sounds pretty amazing because it is amazing. It is also hard. Influencing other people to change their actions and views might well be the hardest thing you ever try to do. If you start with your internal government operations, it may be a little easier because you'll have more credibility, you will be walking the talk. And if you take time to understand local emissions and equity concerns you will be better prepared for questions.  Still, this will be difficult and sometimes frustrating work. If it were easy to transform individual and business practices surely someone would have done it by now!

There is a lot of great research on what works--and doesn't work--to influence practices. Some important rules of thumb as you think about inspiring change:

More resources on inspiring change are included in the resource list below.

As you inspire action be sure to celebrate milestones and share successes widely. As residents and businesses hear about the efforts of their peers that will inspire more action too. Plus talking about your sustainability efforts can help you attract new residents and new businesses to your community. So as you become greener and greener be sure to share the news widely! (And remember, we are always ready to share your success stories as well.)

 

 

Resources

There are a lot of local resources available to help local governments take action on climate change.  

Additionally, you might want to learn from what others are doing.

Finally, there are also terrific national resources available.

 

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