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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Community Participation in Climate Protection Actions A Case Study of Climate Change and Community Sustainability Planning in the City of Davis, California

  • Author(s): Wang, Chunling
  • et al.

When facing the challenge of finding ways to reduce GHG emission to mitigate climate change, besides the actions by government at all levels, planners also need to consider how local communities, which are important actors in the implementation of climate protection plans, react and participate in the process. Through a case study of climate change and community sustainability initiatives in the City of Davis, California, this thesis explores the community participation process and evaluates its effectiveness. I conducted this research by observing the Davis Climate Action Team (CAT) meetings and related public forums, interviewing related participants, participating in the Low Carbon Diet Pilot Program (LCDPP) and its meetings, and surveying the participants of LCDPP. From the analysis of two community programs, I have found that the City of Davis’ planned community participation plays an important role in helping the City staff develop the local action plan and motivate participants to change their energy consumption behaviors. Through organization of the CAT and its operation, the community started a process of community engagement. These processes not only increased public awareness of climate action issues but also provided a platform for people to learn from each other and build consensus on future climate actions. The LCDPP further motivated people to change their energy consumption behaviors to reduce their carbon footprints by efficient tools and group support. The results of the two programs show that mixed planning methods are useful in facing the challenge of climate change. The planner used not only traditional comprehensive planning to develop its cost-effectiveness analysis but also advocacy and communicative planning to further iii promote the importance of climate protection and understand what the community wants and therefore enhance the feasibility of future implementations. The results of LCDPP survey also show that changing people’s behaviors is not a one-off event but a process. It requires not only giving tools to people but providing the enabling environment and incentives. However, some challenges still exist. Inconstant involvement of some CAT members, limited communication among the CAT, the city departments, and the general public, the uncertain final decision of the plan, and insufficient human resources in developing and implementing the necessary work to keep adequate communication and meet the specific time frame in the CAT process all hinder the effectiveness of participation. For the LCDPP, many self-selected participants have already engaged in low carbon activities before. The fact that the housing energy-use focus in the workbook ignored other strategies and renters’ situations also decreased people’s willingness to participate. Moreover, the relatively small GHG reduction seems not to meet the City goal of GHG reduction. The lack of a follow up check mechanism also makes the real GHG savings uncertain. In order to achieve broader and more substantial community participation, I propose an ideal community participation process in climate planning and provide specific recommendations for cities to achieve the process. Cities could (a) assign specific GHG reduction goals to varied programs to achieve the overall reduction requirement; (b) develop multiple outreach and participation methods to reach different social groups in their communities; (c) use alternative methods to keep the participation process transparent and open to the public; (d) develop various methods to ensure as iv much as possible that all participants have accurate information and equal access to make decisions and that suggestions from every participant will be equally considered; (e) add sufficient resources for community participation to improve communication and accelerate the process; (f) provide specific incentives and information to attract more participants; (g) work with existing social organizations to approach people more naturally and to keep the network more cohesive; and (h) set up a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to monitor and verify the effectiveness. I also suggest that more research is needed in order to understand ways that community participation can be more effectively implemented and its effectiveness within varied social contexts. Comparison studies are also recommended to understand the overall effectiveness of community participation in climate protection planning.

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