Guided by Magdalena Vallazza, Lisa and Francie provide a deep dive into Longmont's sustainable endeavors and their commitment to climate justice. Join us as we unravel the innovative strategies driving Longmont towards a greener and more equitable future.

Can you provide an overview of Longmont's sustainability efforts and how your City became a pioneer in the field?

Lisa Knoblauch: Certainly! Longmont's sustainability journey has been a collaborative and community-driven effort. Our work began with internal focus during the financial crisis in 2008, enhancing municipal facilities and operations. However, there was a pivotal moment in 2015 when passionate community members urged our city council to recommit to sustainability. In response, I was hired to lead the development of Longmont's first comprehensive sustainability plan.

Unlike previous efforts, our approach was community-oriented and focused on the triple bottom line, emphasizing environmental, social, and economic aspects, with a strong emphasis on equity. Through extensive community engagement and partnerships with various departments, we crafted a holistic plan that encompassed ten key sustainability areas.

In 2019, recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, our city declared a climate emergency. This declaration led to the formation of a Climate Action Task Force, which produced a recommendations report, further accelerating our climate action efforts. Simultaneously, alongside our sustainability efforts, Francie led our just transition initiative, ensuring a fair transition to 100% renewable energy as per the city's commitment. We ran both the Climate Action Task Force and Just Transition Plan Committee simultaneously, merging their outcomes into the comprehensive Climate Action Recommendations report, which now guides our overarching efforts, while we also provide support to technical focus groups within our organization.

Longmont's success lies in its community-driven approach and a commitment to a sustainable, equitable future.


Navigating challenges and implementing strategies in Longmont's Just Transition

Outstanding work, but does not always sound easy. What challenges did Longmont face in its sustainability work and communication of it?

Francie Jaffe: Here in Longmont we faced challenges in communicating sustainability efforts due to limited resources and diverse community needs. To overcome this, we have developed a targeted communications plan that will be implemented beginning in early 2024 and forged partnerships for effective outreach.

Our hope with the new Kausal Platform, Longmont Indicators, is that this will support these greater communication efforts by helping the community better understand the implementation of our Sustainability Plan, Climate Action Recommendations Report and other related City plans.

Another key challenge is how do we develop and implement sustainability in an equitable way. Both in the just transition initiative as well as in more recent work, like the Sustainable Business Program and community-driven cooling solutions project, the Sustainability Office continues to work to integrate equity into our programs through strong relationships, effective collaboration, and meaningful community engagement.

One goal we aim for with these case studies is that cities can learn from other cities. How can other cities achieve better socially just transitions in their climate action plans?

Francie Jaffe: One key approach is to identify and collaborate with existing partners engaged in community and equity work. In Longmont, we partnered with Community and Neighborhood Resources staff, leveraging their community trust and mission to support local neighborhoods. Utilizing existing centers, like the Senior and Youth centers, proved highly effective in outreach.

Each of these groups exist within the City government, but even if these programs exist outside the government in other places, building connections and early partnerships with community organizations is crucial. Engaging frontline community members impacted by climate change is essential.

We formed the Just Transition Plan Committee (now called the Equitable Climate Action Team), involving these community members directly in crafting climate equity recommendations, which are highlighted on the Kausal Platform today. Learning from community expertise and active participation, as well as fostering partnerships were and still are the vital steps here. The Equitable Climate Action Team still continues to meet to support staff in outreach and applying a climate equity lens to their projects.

Lisa Knoblauch: Building equity-based climate action faces challenges in uniting individuals from various environmental perspectives, balancing the urgency of climate action with the need for careful engagement and trust-building and an understanding of potential unintended consequences.

Longmont's limited resources and its economically diverse community add complexity. Striking a balance between accelerating action and ensuring equitable outcomes is an ongoing learning process. The community's lower-income demographic requires strategic and coordinated efforts, aligning actions with the community's needs.

The implementation of the Kausal platform aids Longmont in overcoming resource constraints, fostering collaboration, breaking down silos, and identifying gaps, allowing for a more strategic and coordinated approach to climate action.


Evaluating climate equity efforts through storytelling and data

Now to the nitty-gritty: How do you measure and track the social outcomes of your equitable climate actions, especially in terms of indicators and qualitative data?

Francie Jaffe: Longmont has been exploring various methods for measuring our equitable climate actions. We're developing geographic-based indicators, connecting them to our work with the Kausal platform. We're also working on a Climate Risk and Resilience Map, assessing neighborhood resilience factors. Quantifiable indicators like access to public transportation, sidewalks, and food availability are being considered.

Additionally, we value storytelling as a qualitative measure, sharing personal experiences to convey the impact of our initiatives and highlight people’s lived experiences. Our partnership with Community and Neighborhood Resources provides qualitative insights, helping us understand community dynamics and economic factors, ensuring our efforts align with the real needs of the residents we serve.

How do your colleagues use Kausal, and what are their thoughts on it?

Lisa Knoblauch: Our experience with the platform has been positive, especially regarding its ability to consolidate plans effectively. It aligns different initiatives, making it easier for staff to update information. However, in terms of making it accessible and understandable for diverse communities within our city, we've faced challenges.

Our communications team has limited capacity. We've recently developed a sustainability communications plan focusing on diverse community needs and working with cultural brokers to bridge communication gaps and establish a feedback loop within our organization.

Francie Jaffe: The Kausal platform is a significant step forward, but it won't reach everyone due to the content's complexity. While it offers benefits by streamlining content, it might still be challenging for some to navigate. We've received feedback to add explanatory videos and we are excited for additional feedback once the platform is more extensively advertised to the community. The platform will enhance our communication, but it can't be the sole method. We'll need various approaches to effectively share our sustainability story.

What can be done to improve and how can cities learn from each other effectively?

Francie Jaffe: We've emphasized equity in our conversations, integrating sustainability to support the community and ensuring everyone benefits. Longmont's sustainability office focuses on the triple bottom line, addressing environmental, social, and economic aspects. We're just beginning with the platform, eager for continuous feedback, recognizing there might be aspects we haven't considered. We're excited to see how this platform evolves and how we can use it effectively.

Lisa Knoblauch: Initially, there was resistance to sustainability terminologies. However, Longmont's unique approach is community-based, emphasizing local context and connections. We've seen significant progress, and now others are learning from our work. We recognize there's more to be done, especially in measuring equitable outcomes. I believe peer learning is crucial. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) provides an excellent model for peer exchange and learning. Sharing best practices, especially on tracking and reporting data, will be invaluable.

Francie Jaffe: Webinars are helpful for community insights. We also need best practices on repeatable, easy-to-track indicators and actions. Collaboration with existing networks like the USDN can enhance learning and sharing. Trends analysis on impactful actions globally can offer valuable insights. Pure learning and peer exchange models, like the USDN, offer effective platforms for sharing knowledge and experiences.

Lisa Knoblauch: It'll be exciting to see how the platform evolves and how cities adapt and learn from one another. The collaborative efforts and continuous feedback will be essential in shaping the future of sustainable initiatives globally. Looking forward to the progress and learning from other cities' experiences as well!

Kausal sincerely thanks Francie and Lisa from Longmont for their insightful interview. We appreciate your time and valuable contributions.

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