Skip to main content

How Actionable are Climate Action Plans?

In-depth Analysis through an Integrated Policy Mix Framework

Principal Investigator(s): Ebrahim Azimi PhD, Jeff Michael PhD, Reid Ewing PhD

Project Partners: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Utah, Maryland Environmental Service

Research Project Funding: $172,719

Project Start and End Date: Oct 1st, 2023 – September 30st, 2024

Project Description: More than 190 local governments in the U.S have recognized the urgent need for action and have issued emergency declarations in their respected cities. However, a 2020 Brookings report shows that about two-thirds of the top 100 cities have made very little progress in implementation and are lagging their short-term emission targets, having even more challenges meeting their longer-term targets. This is mainly due to very limited knowledge and evidence on transportation-related climate mitigation policies and their impacts. Some studies highlight effectiveness of pricing policies such as New York Congestion Pricing policy which may be effective in reducing VMT and its GHG emissions but lack general support and accessibility. Other studies emphasize planning policies such as public transit improvement which likely have general acceptability but lacks financial recourses for execution particularly with recent trends of decline in transit ridership. The missing component of these studies and one key reason behind cities’ challenges on implementing climate mitigation strategies is the lack of integrated policy mixes that are complement to each other, and as a whole could offer an effective mitigation and general acceptability while addressing negative externalities such as potential equity and environmental justice challenges.

This study addresses these gaps in the literature by conducting one of the first and most comprehensive analysis on transportation-related climate mitigation policies. This study conducts 1) a systematic review of existing/implemented transportation related mitigation policies internationally, 2) the PIs will design a policy matrix with performance measures to evaluate effectiveness and externalities of mitigation policies, 3) research team will employ the policy matrix to evaluate policies obtained from Step 1, 4) PIs will review and conduct content analysis of Climate Action Plans for the top 100 major cities in the US. More specifically, researchers will derive transportation-related mitigation policies and policy mixes (if exists), 5) Research team will assess climate action plans based on the integrated policy mix framework to investigate the extent to which cities’ climate mitigation efforts correspond to the matrix performance indicators, 6) The policy analysis will be coupled with a quantitative analysis that link performance indicators in policy matrix to cities progress toward meeting GHG emission reduction targets

US DOT Priorities: This project fits well within the US DOT Strategic Goals of Climate and Sustainability and Equity, aiming to identify the most effective policy mixes that could lead to climate mitigation by cities and local governments. The project also analyses externalities of each policy particularly related to equity and environmental justice. The project fits perfectly with CCST’s Focus Area 1 “Promoting Climate Culture in All Levels of Transportation Decisions” and Focus Area 2 “Community-Centered Solutions to Environmental Justice”.

Outputs: This study will produce the following outputs:

  1. Climate -Transportation Policy Toolkit covering the most comprehensive mitigation policies available to cities, outlines performance indicators and positive/negative externalities for each policy. The Toolkit will provide deep analysis/insights into policy mixes, interactions and tradeoffs tailored for various contexts and scenarios.
  2. A peer-review journal article on systematic review of existing/implemented transportation-related climate mitigation policies. The paper will also introduce the policy matrix and evaluation of transportation related climate mitigation policies.
  3. A peer-review journal article on review, content analysis and best practices of Climate Action Plans for the top 100 US cities
  4. 2 Conference presentations and one UTC lecture presentation
  5. Final report to CCST, cities and local transportation agencies  
  6. A policy brief summarizing the findings and implications for practitioners.

Outcomes/Impacts: Only 45 cities in the US have specified GHG reduction targets, accounting for less than 40 million population (about 10% of US population). Research shows that the have made very little progress in implementation. This study focuses on one of the most challenging barrios/gaps, the lack of an integrative strong policy mix. This study offers a menu of mitigation policies to the cities and complement it with a policy Toolkit that offers deep insights into the complexities of policy interactions and their externalities.

For cities: Cities, municipalities, and metropolitan transportation planning organizations (MPOs) could use the policy menu and Toolkit to create their own most effective policy mix tailored for their city. Planners and city officials in our sample of top 100 cities could incorporate the findings of this study and our analysis of their plan into their Climate Action Plan for a more effective, evidence-based mitigation plan. Researchers will use findings of this study to further quantify GHG reduction and economic/equity externalities of each policy as well as policy in this study’s menu and Toolkit through simulation and agent-based modeling efforts.