Certification Framework

The Climate Smart Communities (CSC) certification framework is organized around the ten elements of the CSC pledge. Local governments that have signed the pledge, known as Registered Climate Smart Communities, have made a commitment to addressing the ten areas described below.

  1. Build a climate-smart community. Building a local team to foster positive change by designating a point person and creating a CSC task force with community members. Connect to larger networks by joining a regional or national climate campaign focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhancing sustainability. 

  2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action. Gather data about local GHG emission sources. Develop baseline emissions inventories for government operations and the community. Develop a local action plan for reducing emissions that includes specific GHG  reduction targets and strategies to achieve those targets.

  3. Decrease energy use. Lead by example. Reduce emissions and save taxpayer dollars by reducing energy demand in public facilities, infrastructure, and vehicle fleets, and maximizing energy efficiency across municipal operations.

  4. Shift to clean, renewable energy. Adopt a policy to power government operations with clean energy. Conduct studies to examine the feasibility of renewable energy installations on public property. Implement renewable energy projects such as solar, wind, geothermal, or small hydro.

  5. Use climate-smart materials management. Reduce the volume of solid waste and increase recycling in government operations. Encourage and support waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting of materials. Educate the community and offer recycling and composting programs, and waste-diversion opportunities that focus on reducing and reusing materials. 

  6. Implement climate-smart land use. Minimize the GHG impact of new development through smart-growth strategies. Adopt community plans, land-use policies, building codes, and multi-modal transportation actions to limit sprawl, reduce vehicle miles traveled, support local agriculture, and protect open lands, wetlands, and forests. 

  7. Enhance community resilience to climate change. Establish a climate resiliency vision and associated goals, identify vulnerabilities to climate change effects for both government operations and the community, and develop and implement strategies to address those vulnerabilities and increase overall community resilience.

  8. Support a green innovation economy. Lead and support the transition to a green economy by incorporating climate action and sustainability into economic development plans. Promote local green industries and offer incentives for supporting them. Adopt policies that support residents and businesses in being energy-efficient. Invest in green jobs training, farmers' markets, and brownfield redevelopment.

  9. Inform and inspire the public. Host events and organize campaigns to educate citizens about climate change and help them discover their role in building a low-emission community that is attractive, healthy, and equitable. Create websites, and use social media outlets to publicize the local government's commitment to reducing GHG emissions and adapting to a changing climate.

  10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action. Monitor and report on progress toward achieving goals. Engage with community members on an ongoing basis as part of considering new ideas and modifying strategies as opportunities emerge and technologies evolve. Update strategies and plans. Share success stories and cooperate with neighboring communities.

Points For Innovation and Performance

The majority of the points in the rating system can be earned through the actions associated with the ten pledge elements. However, the system has been designed to reward local governments that have implemented innovative actions and can demonstrate achieved GHG emissions reductions and other performance metrics. Thus, applicants can earn additional points by demonstrating innovation or high levels of performance.

Innovation Earn additional points for using innovative strategies for the implementation of climate action actions. Applicants achieve this by implementing advanced actions not included in the rating system or using an innovative approach to implementing an action in the rating system. Innovation bonus points are determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Performance Earn additional points for demonstrating quantified reductions in GHG emissions and solid waste volume resulting from the implementation of specific actions. This requires applicants to provide relevant data with before and after measurements to confirm achievement.