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The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is leading the communities of Biddeford, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Kittery through a collaborative process to develop a unique local climate action plan for each community.

What is a Climate Action Plan?

"Climate Change is like an imminent car crash. [Emissions reductions] are the brakes - it will reduce the magnitude of the impact of climate change.  Adaptation is the airbags - it will soften the blow.  We need BOTH to survive the crash intact."

- Integrated Strategies for a Vibrant and Sustainable Fresno County, 2011

A Climate Action Plan (often called a CAP) is a strategic plan that lays out policies and programs for reducing a community's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Emissions reductions - refers to actions that help reduce the total amount of GHGs (greenhouse gases) in the earth's atmosphere. These actions put the brakes on the speed at which climate change is happening.

Climate adaption - refers to actions taken to strengthen a community's ability to adapt to climate change and thrive in spite of its impacts. Adaptation softens the blow of climate change.

A climate action plan serves the following purposes:

  1. Informs the public as to the challenges and solutions for climate change

  2. Identifies what actions are most effective to reduce local GHG emissions and meet desired targets in each community

  3. Identifies what actions will be most effective for each community in adapting to climate change

  4. Establishes who is responsible for each action

  5. Brings affected community members and partners together to work as a team to coordinate climate actions

  6. Coordinates actions across various levels as needed (local, regional, state, federal, and international)

  7. Saves money through energy efficiency, which will build the local economy

  8. Improves community health and livability over the long term

Example Climate Action Plans:

Why do we need local climate action planning?

Common motivations for local Climate Action Planning: 

  • Create Community Resiliency: in recognition of our increased vulnerability to climate impacts

  • Identify Energy Efficiency: to reduce costs

  • Create Public Awareness: to build awareness of local climate change issues, what is being done, and what needs to be done

  • Build a Green Community: to create a sustainable identity and value system to attract residents and visitors

  • Acquire Grants: to gain access to funding that requires Climate goals and plans

  • Build Municipal Leadership: to lead in the state, region, and nation

  • Follow State Policy: to stay consistent with Maine Won't Wait priorities and opportunities

Climate Change is a global problem, but the impacts of climate change will be felt locally through disruptions in our daily lives - such as more extreme storms, droughts, and rainstorms - and through sea level rise and storm surges. This is creating new risks and exacerbating vulnerabilities in our communities.

Similarly, our communities are responsible for offsetting the climate damage being done from our share of the GHGs emitted from the cars and trucks we drive, the houses and buildings we heat, cool, and electrify, the industries we power, and the public services on which we depend.

In Maine, local governments have primary control over local land use, transportation systems and construction. Our communities already have plans and policies in place that address these areas. By incorporating and prioritizing climate change considerations locally, we can reduce our GHG emissions and make our communities more resilient over the long term.

Why a cohort approach?

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A Cohort is a team, group, or community of people with shared interests and goals who progress through an experience together

The communities of Biddeford, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Kittery are developing their Climate Action Plans through a cohort process. This means communities are all working with SMPDC and the other project team members as well as each other to develop their climate action plans concurrently. 

Specific work developing climate action plans, which identify local climate impacts, vulnerabilities, goals, and strategies, is tailored to individual communities. But by sharing administration, technical assistance, outreach efforts, and facilitation, each participating community receives efficiencies in time and resources. The cohort approach also makes it possible to learn from each other and share best practices across communities. Additionally, by comparing and coordinating strategies across the participating communities, we will be able to consider potential regional goals and actions.


Outcomes of the Southern Maine CAP Cohort include:

  1. A local climate action plan for each participating community, which has been developed through a robust planning and public engagement process

  2. Increased public awareness and understanding of climate change issues and actions in participating communities

  3. Increased community participation in municipal climate action planning and decisions

  4. The ability to prioritize issues and potential cliimate actions both locally and regionally

  5. A range of climate action planning templates, guides, and resources that will be publicly available online as the SMPDC Climate Action Planning toolkit

Who's leading the CAP effort?

Climate Action Planning is a data, resource, and time intensive process. The Southern Maine CAP Cohort project team is ensuring that each community creates a Climate Action Plan that meets the needs of their community.

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Climate Action Planning

Each community has created a task force of volunteers and municipal staff who are overseeing the climate action planning process and leading public engagement in their communities. Task force members meet regularly with their task force, and with the entire cohort to share updates and discuss regional climate issues, planning challenges, and opportunities for regional or multi-municipality approaches.


Morris Communications | Zoe Miller Strategies

Public engagement and facilitation

Carol Morris heads up Morris Communications, a firm that specializes in bringing a clear message to diverse audiences and managing the inevitable conflict around change.


Zoe Miller Strategies  is a Maine-based consultancy that helps build healthy, equitable communities through inclusive engagement and collaborative strategies. Miller is driven by a commitment to ensuring that those most affected are involved in the decisions that impact their lives. 


Morris and Miller agree that the fundamentals of good public engagement include providing simple and understandable explanations, making it both easy and compelling to participate, and listening to and acting upon concerns and suggestions.

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Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission

SMPDC’s Regional Sustainability and Resilience Program manages the cohort process and provides the planning framework, technical assistance, guidance materials, plan development support, and peer learning opportunities to facilitate climate action planning in the participating communities.

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Climate Action Planning technical assistance

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, is a US-based nonprofit that has successfully facilitated local climate action planning cohorts elsewhere in the country including Indiana and Pennsylvania. ICLEI supports the task forces and SMPDC by producing future greenhouse emissions projections and assisting with the development of emissions reduction strategies.

The Local CAP Cohort is funded in part by the Maine Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future through the Community Resilience Partnership.
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