Allentown is among 21 municipalities participating in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) second year of its Local Climate Action Program (LCAP)
Launched this week, from now through June 2021, participants will learn how to measure local greenhouse gas emissions, assess local climate-related vulnerabilities, and develop plans to reduce emissions and manage climate change impacts in their communities.
“DEP is excited to start the second year of the Local Climate Action Program. Through this innovative online program, we’re helping to meet communities’ need for information on emissions and climate change impacts and expertise in planning to reduce those impacts,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Governor Tom Wolf has identified climate change as the most critical environmental threat and in 2019 set a statewide goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Allentown is being assisted by Muhlenberg College students in developing the components of our local climate action plans. DEP enlists ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, a national nonprofit that fosters sustainable development, to provide online training and one-on-one technical assistance to the municipal/student teams. This training is funded by a $49,942 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The municipal/student teams will develop greenhouse gas inventories of local building, transportation, agriculture, waste management, and other sectors. They’ll review the strategies and actions recommended in the 2018 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan
and incorporate some of them into their local climate action plans. The teams will work to identify local climate-related vulnerabilities, such as extreme rainfall and extreme heat days. They’ll also conduct public meetings and online surveys to engage community members in the planning process.
Drawing on this information, the municipal/student teams will use a template to draft their local climate action plans, detailing strategies, actions, metrics, and timelines. Plans will include ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions in commercial and residential buildings, energy production, waste management, transportation, agriculture, and other areas.
The teams will then share their plans with community residents and public officials. To become final, a draft plan must be adopted by the local governing body or mayor.
Eighteen participants contain at least one census block group that meets DEP’s criteria for an Environmental Justice (EJ) area. DEP considers a community an EJ area if 20 percent or more individuals live in poverty and/or 30 percent or more population are residents of color as defined by the US Census. LCAP includes training from DEP EJ Director Allison Acevedo on the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, and the importance of actively engaging community residents who are being significantly impacted by climate change.
Municipalities learn about LCAP through outreach by the DEP Energy Programs Office and Pennsylvania Municipal League, and interest has been strong. Admission is first come, first served, with consideration given to including communities from around the state.
Easton is the only other Lehigh Valley municipality participating.
The 2020 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment
, produced for DEP by the Penn State University Environment and Natural Resources Institute, shows the state has experienced a nearly 2° F rise in average temperature, an approximately 10 percent increase in average annual rainfall, and increased frequency of extreme precipitation since 1901.
It’s projected that by mid-century every county will continue to get warmer and wetter, with average rainfall and extreme precipitation continuing to increase 8 to 12 percent, particularly in winter and spring, while average temperature rises by 4.9° F.