How to a Write Climate Action Plan with Multigenerational Mentorship

community youth organizing an action plan

As the climate crisis continues to threaten our planet, creating a comprehensive Climate Action Plan has never been more crucial. Most governments are failing to make changes fast enough, which means that we everyday people need to step up and safeguard out communities. But how do we address this complex issue while actively involving our community members? In this blog post, climate scientist Tim MaGee walks us through how to write a Climate Action Plan based on decades of field work throughout the Americas. Let’s dive in!

Tim Magee Author and Climate Scientist

Tim Magee

Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Development

Mr. Magee is a climate scientist and the author of “A Field Guide to Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change“. He serves as a mentor to nonprofits throughout the Americas.

How To Write a Climate Action Plan

I wake up each morning, take a peek at the news, and see an increasing number of climate calamities happening around the world. Drought, floods, melting glaciers, torrential storms, wildfires, and heat waves. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, ‘Is anybody doing anything about this? Is there anything that I could be doing?’ There are days when the catastrophes feel so unmanageably extreme and intangible, that I just give up and move on with my day.

But, if you are lucky, you live in a community or an area that you love. You and your neighbors might be feeling one of these negative climate impacts yourselves. Now, you have a tangible opportunity to work on!

Welcome to Gen Unison

Gen Unison has multifaceted resources available for you to begin tackling these challenges. Today, we’re going to chat about just one of them: Writing a Climate Action Plan.

A climate action plan is a step by step plan to prepare for or adapt to climate change challenge. It can also be a plan for reducing your carbon footprint. The plan is written with input from your neighbors and represents the needs and challenges which they are concerned about. The plan is also achievable. It is written to complement the capabilities that your community members have.

It might be a hands-on project where neighbors come together on the weekends to plant street trees to cool your downtown areas. It could be a group of engaged community members leading consciousness raising workshops on reducing food waste by composting it for your backyard vegetable garden (all excellent ways of reducing your carbon footprint).

Or, it might be a more sophisticated project requiring outside expertise. If so, neighbors could participate in fundraising drives, or attending City Council meetings to gain project acceptance and funding.

Boomers to Zoomers: Cross Generational Mentorship

This isn’t any old mentorship, this is a two-way, cross generational mentorship. For example, a person recently retired from a large, commercial landscaping business, could provide expertise in the street tree project. A burgeoning climate activist in their mid 20s would fulfill their end of the bargain by providing energy, enthusiasm, motivation, and purpose. An unconquerable team! A climate army! Learn how to form a mentored partnership here.

So, how do you actually write a climate action plan?

The Center for Sustainable Development offers a pair of hands-on training programs where you actually design a climate action plan that will be effective and is launched during the training in the real world. This is how we develop a professional climate action plan over a five week period of time.

Step 1: Community Needs Assessment

By the community and for the community. Your neighbors, and the community as a whole, have a lot of information about the challenges that they are facing. They also have their own personal needs. By interviewing community members, you will learn a lot, and you will also gain their trust.

Climate action plans aren’t a one-shot deal. They are more frequently activities that need to be maintained over many years (water those street trees!).

If through interviewing your neighbors, you incorporate their input into your plan, they will feel that you designed their plan for them and will develop a sense of ownership. That ownership will lead to long-term maintenance of the plan’s activities. Very important!

Hold a community needs assessment. 1. Find a place where you can host a three-hour meeting for a dozen people. Set a date. Borrow an easel and a newsprint flip chart. Organize some healthy refreshments.
If you are a mentored team—excellent. Suggest that the boomer invite 6 representatives of the community—in their age group. Suggest that the zoomer do the same. 2. Read about how to facilitate a community needs assessment here.
3. Encourage an open discussion with your neighbors about their perception of needs and challenges that the community is facing. Write each and every one of these down on the flip chart.
4. On a fresh sheet of newsprint, draw a series of rectangles similar to the example on the left. Insert the final list of challenges—one in each rectangle.
Give each participant 10 beans. Have them, one at a time, vote with their 10 beans. They should be voting on the challenges which represent their greatest priorities. They can put all their beans in one challenge or they can spread them around the board.

When the vote is done, tally the results and put the number adjacent to each of the challenges as in the example on the left.
Open up discussions and ask for your participants responses to the final tally. What you’re looking for here ownership of the results.

Step 2: The Project Outline

We’re going to take the results of the workshop and create 3 components to your project. 1.) A simple summary. 2.) The outline. 3.) A problem statement.

After the workshop, organize the results into a project outline—but focused only on the top two priorities that your neighbors identified.

Summary of the workshop:

What’s the real problem?

In January, I worked with a core group of two engaged community members and two city council members from the City of Willcox, Arizona. They organized a climate change conversation with 16 townspeople—a healthy range of people from different backgrounds. Each of the 20 participants were able to voice climate concerns and challenges for Willcox and then vote on them with 10 beans each. These townspeople were representative of families and business owners that the City hopes to work with on developing a Local Climate Action Plan. The biggest challenges they described were diminishing agricultural and city water, and a reduction in tourism dollars due to an increasing number of heat waves—and were expressed as the following problems.

The full list of needs/problems and the vote results:Votes out of 200
Diminishing agricultural water for surrounding farms and ranches51
Diminishing water for the city and the surrounding area44
Loss of tourism dollars due to an increasing number of heat waves43
Heavy stormwater runoff during extreme weather events and flood damage34
Skepticism among some community members about a changing climate28

The Project Outline Developed from the workshop results:

Simple project outline of problems/causes/impacts:

Prioritized Problems:

  • 1) Water: Diminishing agricultural and city water
  • 2) Heat Waves: Loss of tourism dollars for businesses

Underlying Causes:

  • A) High temperatures and recurring drought due to global warming
  • B) Heavy runoff from surrounding agricultural fields and mountains caused by extreme weather events flows too rapidly to recharge groundwater
  • C) Very little shade in neighborhoods and in the downtown area

Their negative impacts

  • a) Dry wells for homeowners and negative economic impacts to farms and ranches.
  • b) Businesses suffer from reduced tourism dollars.
  • c) Combined, these challenges reduce the ability of families to lead the productive, meaningful, prosperous lives they desire and to be able to contribute to the continued development of their community

Problem Statement:

3200 townspeople and their businesses in Willcox, Arizona, are suffering from 1) diminishing agricultural and city water supplies due to A) climate related droughts and B) heavy, rapidly flowing runoff from surrounding agricultural fields and mountains caused by extreme weather events not charging groundwater leading to a) dry wells for homeowners and negative economic impacts to farms, ranches, and businesses. 2) Global warming induced heat waves magnified by C) very little shade in neighborhoods and in the downtown area are causing b) businesses to suffer from reduced tourism dollars. Combined, these challenges c) reduce the ability of families to lead the productive, meaningful, prosperous lives they desire and to be able to contribute to the continued development of their community.

Step 3: Research Solutions

The next stage is to research solutions for the challenges that the community has described—and embellish your project outline by including these solutions

Climate Action Plan Outline: Problem list combined with potential interventions/activities/solutions that I chose

[Problem 2]. Heat Waves causing a loss of tourism dollars for businesses

Street Tree Program to Reduce Urban Heat [Solution to underlying cause: Very little shade in neighborhoods and in the downtown area]:

  • [Activity 1]. Community identified need: Survey with community members to identify their knowledge of urban trees, and challenges and solutions they see (consciousness raising).
  • [Activity 2]. Scientific context and scope: Identify and consult with an arborist with street tree experience to help develop the scope of the project and the activities below.
  • [Activity 3]. Community engagement and consciousness raising: Community workshop on participatory mapping of a street tree plan (consciousness raising).
  • [Activity 4]. Goal prioritization: Prioritize locations for tree planting
  • [Activity 5]. Evidence based climate solutions: Investigate scientifically proven techniques and species for the urban tree plantings that are appropriate for reducing urban heat in a semiarid region
  • [Activity 6]. Project design: Work with arborist to develop a project design with specific techniques and activities, a budget, a schedule, and necessary funding documents.
  • [Activity 7]. Community feedback and adoption: Present the plan to community members for comment.
  • [Activity 8]. Fundraising plan: Develop a multifaceted funding plan between federal, state, county, foundation and private funding sources.

Goal Statement: The Goal Statement is an exact positive reflection of the Problem Statement above. Cut and paste your Problem statement and simply make it positive.

3,200 townspeople and their businesses in Willcox, Arizona, will be able to enjoy 1) replenished water supplies through a Groundwater Recharge Program leading to a) working wells for homeowners and positive economic impacts for farms, ranches, and businesses. 2) Heat waves will be reduced through a Street Tree Program leading to b) businesses enjoying renewed tourism dollars. Combined, these programs will c) increase the ability of families to lead the productive, meaningful, prosperous lives they desire and to be able to contribute to the continued development of their community.

Copyright © Tim Magee.

This is how climate professionals begin the development of their climate action plans. You can do it too! Gen Unison has resources to help you move forward.

But this is just the beginning. There are several more stages that you will need to do to complete your plan.

Step 4: Find Real World Examples

Very, very important. Use scientific research tools like Google Scholar to research whether your solution ideas have shown evidence of having worked in the real world. Modify your project outline to incorporate what you’ve learned from this research.

Step 5: Present the Project Outline to the Community

Return to your community with your completed project outline to get their input. They should be pleased with what you’ve done.

Step 6. Develop project management tools

This would include :

  • project management framework
  • a budget
  • a schedule

Step 7. Write a two-page fact sheet

Recast your project outline into a presentation document. This document is useful for approaching your City Council, for approaching government agencies for seed funding, or to look for volunteers to help shoulder the load for when you begin planting trees. Here’s an example of a two-page fact sheet.

Here is information on how about working through Gen Unison, your mentored partnership can participate in this training at a greatly reduced cost. Thank you! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

To book a mentoring call with Tim Magee, click here:

Multigenerational Mentorship for your Climate Action Plan

The Era of Climate Change asks our current 7 living generations to team up and work together. By updating our communities with mentorship, we can avoid common mistakes, gain funding opportunities and complete our projects on time. Plus, multigenerational projects help strengthen the bonds of our communities. Read our Generational Guides and Find Out About Your Generation!

Setting Net-Zero Emissions Targets

Any climate action plan hinges on setting net-zero emissions targets. These targets aim to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions entirely, a goal that can be bolstered by mobilizing private capital for investment in clean energy and environmentally friendly initiatives. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan is a prime example, striving for net-zero emissions by 2035. This ambitious target sets the stage for the city’s future, as well as the world’s, in combating the climate crisis.

Achieving net-zero emissions is a massive undertaking, requiring bold steps, innovative strategies, and unwavering commitment from all stakeholders. Yet, the benefits of reaching this goal are immense: reduced carbon emissions, cleaner air, and a healthier environment for future generations. By setting net-zero emissions targets, cities like San Diego are leading the way in tackling the climate crisis and ensuring a sustainable future for all.

Identifying Key Strategies and Actions

The successful execution of a climate action plan relies heavily on pinpointing key strategies and actions. Undertaking research is a foundational step in readying for climate action. It provides key insights to:

  • Identify further initiatives
  • Adopt technological transformations
  • Amplify collaboration efforts
  • Back research devoted to GHG cuts across all departments

For example, San Diego’s Climate Action Plan includes Strategy 6, which addresses greenhouse gas emissions that will remain after all currently identified measures have been achieved. This strategy aims to achieve the net-zero goal by:

  • Identifying additional actions
  • Pursuing technological innovation
  • Expanding partnerships
  • Supporting research that reduces GHG emissions in all sectors.

Engaging Stakeholders and Communities

The success of a climate action plan significantly depends on the participation of a variety of stakeholders and communities during its development and execution. More than 4,000 San Diegans actively participated in the development of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, sharing their needs, concerns, and priorities. Their input played a significant role in shaping the plan and its objectives, ensuring that it was tailored to the local context and the needs of the community.

In addition to community involvement, partnerships with various sectors, such as labor organizations and the private sector, are essential in advancing the plan’s goals. For example, HUD has committed to specific, time-bound actions on climate and environmental justice, including using low and zero-carbon energy.

By engaging stakeholders and communities, climate action plans can foster collaboration, build trust, and achieve greater impact in addressing climate change.

Implementing the Climate Action Plan

Following the development of a climate action plan, the subsequent phase is its execution. This involves:

  • Organizing government processes and structures around the net-zero goal
  • Partnering with labor organizations and the private sector
  • Monitoring progress and adapting to challenges

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan is a great example of successful implementation. This plan includes:

  • Transitioning city facilities to 100% renewable energy service
  • Funding early implementation steps
  • Partnering with labor organizations to complete a workforce impacts study

Establishing Government Structures and Processes

Establishing government structures and processes that back the plan’s objectives is a fundamental requirement for successfully executing a climate action plan. San Diego has crafted an Implementation Plan to reach the net-zero goal. This plan focuses on equity, accountability, and transparency for city processes and government structure. This approach ensures that the plan is effectively integrated into the city’s operations and decision-making processes.

Best practices for establishing local governments include:

  • Conducting a thorough evaluation of the local context
  • Assessing and strengthening existing governance structures
  • Engaging stakeholders and the community
  • Collaborating with other jurisdictions and agencies
  • Developing a comprehensive policy tool like a locally adopted Climate Action Plan

By ensuring that these structures are in place, cities can more effectively implement their climate action plans and achieve their goals.

Partnering with Labor Organizations and Private Sector

Cooperation with labor organizations, businesses, and other stakeholders is a major part of executing a climate action plan. San Diego has partnered with labor organizations to assess the impacts of the plan on the workforce. This partnership helps to ensure that the plan is implemented in a way that benefits workers and creates opportunities for job growth and economic development.

Promoting inclusive public dialogue when partnering with labor organizations is essential for building trust and support for the climate action plan. By engaging stakeholders and communities, fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect, and ensuring that all voices are heard and respected, cities can create a strong foundation for the successful implementation of their climate action plans.

Monitoring Progress and Adapting to Challenges

The success of any climate action plan hinges on continual progress tracking and adaptability to challenges. Regular monitoring and evaluation can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the plan is achieving its desired outcomes. Some strategies for monitoring and evaluation include:

  • Setting clear goals and targets
  • Collecting and analyzing data on key indicators
  • Conducting regular assessments and reviews
  • Engaging stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation process
  • Using feedback and lessons learned to make adjustments and improvements

Multigenerational mentorship, for example, provides a diverse range of perspectives that can be used to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to address emerging challenges.

Examples of successful climate action plans that have adapted to challenges include San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the New York City Climate Mobilization Act. By continually tracking progress and adapting to challenges, cities can ensure that their climate action plans remain effective and responsive to the evolving needs of their communities.

Case Study: San Diego’s Climate Action Plan

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan serves as an inspiring example for other cities looking to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan’s ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2035, community involvement, and collaboration with labor organizations highlight the importance of a comprehensive approach to climate action.

Let’s take a closer look at San Diego’s Climate Action Plan and the valuable insights it offers.

Community Involvement and Priorities

Community involvement in the creation of a climate action plan is imperative for aligning the plan with the community’s needs and values. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan included the input of more than 4,000 San Diegans, who shared their needs, concerns, and priorities. This community involvement played an essential role in shaping the plan’s objectives and ensuring that it was tailored to the local context.

Community involvement in a climate action plan can be achieved through various strategies, such as:

  • Community engagement
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Public participation
  • Grassroots activism
  • Citizen science initiatives

By engaging the community, cities can build trust and support for the plan, ensuring its successful implementation and long-term effectiveness.

Achievements and Early Implementation Steps

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan has already recorded significant strides in achieving its objectives. The city has:

  • Transitioned all of its facilities to San Diego Community Power’s 100% renewable energy service
  • Funded early implementation steps
  • Partnered with labor organizations to complete a workforce impacts study

These early achievements demonstrate the city’s commitment to addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan serves as a model for other cities looking to develop and implement their climate action plans. By learning from San Diego’s example, cities can:

  • Identify best practices
  • Implement effective strategies
  • Learn from lessons learned
  • Achieve their climate goals
  • Build a more sustainable future for their communities.

Workforce Impacts Study and Collaboration with Labor Organizations

The alliance between San Diego and labor organizations plays a pivotal part in the execution of its Climate Action Plan. The city has collaborated with these organizations to assess the plan’s impacts on the workforce, ensuring that the plan benefits workers and creates opportunities for job growth and economic development.

This collaboration highlights the importance of engaging diverse stakeholders in the development and implementation of a climate action plan. By partnering with:

  • labor organizations
  • community groups
  • environmental justice organizations
  • business leaders
  • academic institutions

Cities can ensure that their plans are inclusive, responsive to the needs of their communities, and effective in addressing climate change.

Climate Resilience and Environmental Justice

Strengthening climate resilience and propelling environmental justice initiatives are indispensable aspects of any climate action plan. Climate resilience helps communities absorb shocks and stresses and maintain essential functions, while environmental justice ensures fair treatment and meaningful involvement for all people in environmental decision-making.

In this section, we’ll explore the importance of these concepts and their application in climate action plans.

Building Climate Resilience

Climate resilience is key to enabling communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the repercussions of climate change. Strategies for building climate resilience include:

  • Developing timely early warning systems

  • Investing in durable infrastructure that is resilient to climate change

  • Investing in sustainable natural resources that can help buffer the impacts of climate change

By investing in climate resilience, communities can reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather events, protect their natural resources, and promote sustainable development. Building climate resilience is an essential aspect of any climate action plan and plays a crucial role in ensuring the long-term success of these plans.

Advancing Environmental Justice Initiatives

Environmental justice initiatives tackle and rectify the environmental inequities and injustices that unfairly burden marginalized communities. Climate action plans should prioritize environmental justice initiatives by ensuring that all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, have access to the same environmental benefits and protections.

Examples of environmental justice initiatives include the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to provide 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments relating to climate change and clean energy to disadvantaged communities, and the Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants, which fund projects in disadvantaged communities and support community capacity building.

By advancing environmental justice initiatives, cities can ensure that their climate action plans address the needs of all communities and promote a more equitable and sustainable future.

Getting Involved in Climate Action at the Local Level

Individuals hold a critical role in mitigating climate change and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. By participating in local climate programs, supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and learning about climate resilience plans, individuals can make a meaningful impact on their communities and the environment.

In this section, we’ll explore the various ways individuals can get involved in climate action at the local level.

Participating in Local Climate Programs and Partnerships

Local climate initiatives and partnerships present avenues for individuals to participate in climate action, thereby effecting change in their communities. By volunteering their time, donating money, or advocating for climate action in their communities, individuals can contribute to the development and implementation of local climate initiatives and projects.

Engaging in local climate programs and partnerships can also help individuals gain a better understanding of the impacts of climate change and how to address them. By connecting with like-minded individuals and organizations and building relationships with local leaders and decision-makers, individuals can develop skills and knowledge that can be applied to other areas of their lives.

Supporting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Initiatives focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency are integral in lessening greenhouse gas emissions and battling climate change. By supporting renewable energy sources such as:

  • solar

  • wind

  • hydro

  • geothermal power

By choosing electric vehicles, individuals can contribute to the transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon energy system and reduce emissions.

In addition to supporting renewable energy, individuals can also promote energy efficiency in their homes and businesses by implementing measures to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency. By taking these steps, individuals can help reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

What are Climate Resilience Plans?

Climate Resilience Plans consist of strategies and actions aimed at equipping communities to brace for, respond to, and recover from climate change impacts. These plans often include measures to reduce vulnerability to extreme weather events, protect natural resources, and promote sustainable development.

By understanding and supporting Climate Resilience Plans, individuals can contribute to building more resilient communities in the face of climate change.

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, for example, serves as an inspiring model for other cities looking to develop and implement their climate action plans. By learning from San Diego’s example, individuals can:

  • Identify best practices, strategies, and lessons learned

  • Participate in and support local climate initiatives

  • Build a more sustainable future for their communities.


In conclusion, developing and implementing a comprehensive Climate Action Plan requires a collaborative effort involving governments, communities, and individuals. By setting ambitious targets, identifying key strategies and actions, engaging stakeholders, and prioritizing climate resilience and environmental justice, cities can effectively address the climate crisis and build a more sustainable future. It’s time for all of us to take bold steps and join the fight against climate change.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you create an action plan for climate change?

Create a comprehensive and navigable climate action plan (CAP) by collaborating with key stakeholders, presenting a compelling story of the city’s climate action, and developing a communications plan for its launch.

What are the 7 priorities in the National Climate Action Plan?

The National Climate Action Plan puts food security, water sufficiency, ecological and environmental stability, human security, climate-smart industries and services, sustainable energy and knowledge and innovation as its seven top priorities.

What is the climate action plan Biden?

President Biden’s ambitious climate action plan promises to cut emissions by 50-52 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, making it a bold and potentially game-changing move in tackling climate change.

What is the climate action plan?

A climate action plan is a comprehensive strategy that outlines specific actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and details resilient strategies, clean energy targets, economic and social goals to counter the negative effects of climate change. Bold leadership and collaboration are necessary for its successful implementation.

What is the main purpose of a Climate Action Plan?

The main purpose of a Climate Action Plan is to reduce carbon emissions by setting targets, identifying strategies, and engaging stakeholders to address climate change.

Read more: How to a Write Climate Action Plan with Multigenerational Mentorship

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