Climate Change Law: A Primer for Cities

A report from the Sabin Center provides a legal framework for municipal-level action on climate change policy.

November 30, 2021, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


San Francisco Muni

Michael Vi / Shutterstock

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law's Amy E. Turner and Michael Burger provide a legal framework for cities wanting to take action on climate change goals in their local jurisdictions. The document "is meant to highlight potential issues and offer a range of paths forward that cities may consider in pursuing their municipal carbon reduction goals."

Outlining the four sectors that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions––buildings, transportation, energy, and waste––the report explores carbon reduction policies that can be implemented at the municipal level and "cross-cutting legal frameworks that inform many areas of city climate policy, as well as legal concepts that influence how equity may be incorporated into those policy domains."

Potential decarbonization tools in the four sectors include:

  • Buildings: building energy benchmarking, energy efficiency retrofits, changes in local building codes, restriction on energy sources.
  • Transportation: land use and zoning reform, support of alternative transportation modes, congestion pricing, and investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.
  • Energy: investment in renewable energy programs at the household level and the utility scale.
  • Waste: recycling and organic waste collection programs, waste management requirements for new buildings, plastic bans, and regulation of waste companies.

The report also includes a chapter on equity, citing the impacts of climate change on BIPOC and low-income communities and the interwoven nature of decarbonization, housing, and jobs policies. While the authors note that all cities have different legal constraints, the framework can serve as an informational tool to guide city leaders towards the most effective decarbonization policies.

Thursday, November 18, 2021 in Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

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