The City of Bethlehem is committed to fighting global climate change. After substantial public engagement and input, the City of Bethlehem, working together with community stakeholders, working group members, and interested individuals, has developed the City’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP) which will serve as the City’s comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change in Bethlehem. The CAP sets out targeted policies, programs, and projects that will mitigate Bethlehem’s contribution to climate change and will also help the city build resilience and adapt to the effects of a changing climate. The plan includes actions and goals for both municipal operations and the community as a whole. In this way, our City government will continue to lead by example, while City residents and businesses also play key roles in helping the community prevent and prepare for the effects of climate change. The final Climate Action Plan document was released on April 12, 2021.
A preview of the plan, hosted by Mayor Donchez, Councilman Reynolds and Public Works Director Michael Alkhal was held virtually April 12, 2021.
The release maybe viewed here: Release Presentation
The City of Bethlehem has a long history of supporting climate action and leading by example. In 2006, Bethlehem Mayor John B. Callahan joined the mayoral administrations of Easton and Allentown in signing the Three City Proclamation, which endorsed U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement
. More recently, Mayor Robert J. Donchez and City Council have committed Bethlehem to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy
, the We Are Still In
initiative, the Sierra Club’s Mayors For 100% Clean Energy
, and the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda
. During that time, the City government has implemented numerous greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, ranging from energy efficiency to renewable energy purchasing, which have reduced municipal emissions 37 percent from 2005 to 2017.
In February 2017, Bethlehem City Council unanimously passed a Resolution endorsing the creation of a Climate Action Plan. Mayor Donchez’s administration, through the Public Works department, issued a request for proposals (RFP) for climate action plan preparation in June 2019. Bethlehem-based engineering firm WSP and science-based community center Nurture Nature Center (NNC), located in Easton, were selected as consultants to develop the CAP in 2020 with input from Bethlehem’s public and stakeholders, including the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) and Councilman J. William Reynolds, who played critical roles in developing the CAP initiative.
Read the project’s stakeholder engagement plan
Actions You Can Take to Reduce Your Impact
Many people feel overwhelmed when they first start to think about climate change and what they might be able to do about it. The following resources list actions you can take that range from quick decisions at the grocery store - eating less meat - to getting involved with community efforts to address climate change.
What is a Climate Action Plan (CAP)?
The principal component of a CAP is its GHG emission reduction and climate risk mitigation strategies. The overarching objective is to develop a comprehensive plan to achieve deep reductions of GHG emissions and increase climate resilience that brings economic benefits to all City stakeholders.
- Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy - Bethlehem is among more than 9,000 cities and towns globally that are part of the Global Covenant of Mayors, which entails a commitment to following GCoM’s three-year process for developing a climate action plan. GCoM’s website explains how this process works and the role cities and towns play in combating climate change and preparing for its impacts.
- Climate Action Planning, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group - “A climate change action plan lays out a strategy, including specific measures, to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”
- Climate Action Plans, Institute for Local Government - “Climate action plans are comprehensive roadmaps that outline the specific activities that an agency will undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate action plans build upon the information gathered by greenhouse gas inventories and generally focus on those activities that can achieve the relatively greatest emission reductions in the most cost effective manner.”
- Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning, UN-Habitat - This report lays out some of the typical steps and goals for climate action planning processes and includes case studies of what successful planning can look like from around the world.
- CDP Cities - This site includes data and case studies from cities around the world that have engaged in climate action planning and other sustainability efforts.
- 100 Resilient Cities - This resource describes the efforts of 100 cities around the world leading the charge to become more resilient, including through climate action planning.
- U.S. State Climate Action Plans, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions - Climate action planning takes place at the state level as well as in cities. This map links to state CAPs around the country, including Pennsylvania’s.
Why is a City Climate Action Plan Important for Bethlehem?
The emission reduction and climate risk mitigation components of a Climate Action Plan contribute to reducing Bethlehem’s contribution to climate change and resulting impacts while adapting to the effects of a changing climate. This is important given the projected local climate change impacts for Bethlehem explained in the following resources:
- Climate Explorer - This tool includes maps and charts that depict impacts of climate change at the city and county level. We can see that Bethlehem can expect to experience warmer average temperatures, more days above 90°F, and potentially more extreme precipitation.
- Climate Opinion Maps, Yale Center for Climate Change Communication - With data at the county level, we can see that the majority of people in Northampton and Lehigh counties are worried about global warming and believe that more should be done to address it.
- Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast - The Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, or CCRUN, is a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that researches the risks urban communities in the Northeast region face as a result of climate change. They have found that this region will experience temperature and precipitation changes that impact our health and water resources, among other things.
Science of Climate Change
- NASA, Climate Change: How Do We Know? - With engaging visuals and easy to understand language, NASA summarizes evidence, causes, and effects of climate change.
- Fourth National Climate Assessment - While this entire report, which is prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) for Congress and the President every 4 years, is very long, the website lists all chapters so you can select what you are interested in learning more about - from the climate science to projections for various climate impacts to potential responses.
- The FAQ page for the assessment answers many common questions about climate change.
- NOAA Climate.gov - Climate.gov is a source for scientific data and information about climate. It includes cutting edge research, news stories, and the Global Climate Dashboard where you can see graphs of changes in average temperature, carbon dioxide concentrations, size of glaciers, and more.
- NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information - Under the Climate Information tab on NCEI’s website, you can find information on overall climate; analyses of recent weather and climate events and how unusual they are; information on droughts, heat waves, and other extreme events; and links to other data, from regional to international.
- Responding to Climate Change, NASA - NASA’s information on mitigating and adapting to climate change focuses on explaining the science behind various strategies.
- Mitigation, Fourth National Climate Assessment - This chapter from the most recent national climate assessment explores the ways we can improve energy efficiency and shift to low or no-carbon energy to reduce emissions.
- Table of Solutions, Project Drawdown - Project Drawdown vigorously reviews potential solutions to climate change and explains how a wide array of those solutions, implemented globally, can help humanity achieve “drawdown,” or the point when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline. This list is a great starting point for looking into the larger global picture of how we can mitigate climate change.
- U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit - This website includes resources and case studies to help communities build resilience in the face of climate change through a 5 step process: 1) explore hazards, 2) assess vulnerability and risks, 3) investigate options, 4) prioritize and plan, 5) take action.
- Mitigation, UN Environmental Program - This site includes a summary of mitigation, links to case studies, and other UN resources and reports. It says about mitigation, “It can be as complex as a plan for a new city, or as simple as improvements to a cook stove design.”
The history of public participation on developing the plan beginning on December 9, 2020, until it's release April 12, 2021.
Submit an idea:
- Third and Final Virtual Public Planning Meeting: December 9, 2020 (Completed)
- The third public meeting on the CAP was held as a webinar at two separate times on December 9 to maximize accessibility. If you missed the sessions, please see the materials below:
- At the meeting the City and consultant WSP presented a draft of Bethlehem’s climate action plan, including its objectives, strategies, and proposed implementation approach. The plan addresses a range of sectors, from buildings to transportation to education, with a focus on environmental justice considerations. A period of public comment on the draft follows the virtual meeting. Use the form above to share your thoughts on what is included in the plan.
- Second Virtual Public Planning Meeting: October 7, 2020 (Completed)
- The second public meeting on the CAP was held as a webinar at two separate times on October 7 to maximize accessibility. If you missed the sessions, please see the materials below:
- At the meeting the City and consultant WSP presented draft climate action strategies for a range of sectors, from buildings to transportation to education, with a focus on environmental justice considerations. Participants were then asked to share their ideas and priorities for goals and strategies..
- First Public Virtual Meeting: June 17, 2020 (completed)
- The first public meeting on the CAP was held as a webinar at two separate times on June 17 to maximize accessibility. If you missed the sessions, please see the materials below:
- During the meeting, consultants WSP and Nurture Nature Center reviewed the projected impacts of climate change on Bethlehem, introduced the climate action planning process, and provided information about actions the City has already taken to address climate change. Participants were then asked to share their thoughts on the goals and priorities they hope to see reflected in the plan.
- An additional public meeting is planned for November. Details will be published here when these dates are announced.
- Have an idea or a suggestion? Submit it to the CAP development team.