Giving Compass' Take:
- Claire Elise Thompson explains how Pittsburgh is employing priority-based budgeting to direct public funds toward climate goals.
- What role can you play in helping cities shift their funding to align with climate goals?
- Learn why cities worldwide aren't adapting to climate change quickly enough.
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overnments the world over have made a lot of great-sounding climate commitments. In Pittsburgh, for example, an ambitious plan adopted in 2018 outlines objectives like 100 percent renewable energy in municipal facilities by 2030, a fossil-free fleet, and zero-waste operations. But setting goals is one thing. Implementing the programs and infrastructure needed to reach them is another — and that work costs money.
“We had a large, ambitious agenda, but very little resources that went alongside it,” says Grant Ervin, Pittsburgh’s former chief resilience officer who oversaw creation of the 2018 plan. “Following the completion of our resilience strategy and our climate action plans, we were asking the question: Where is the money to help implement these different initiatives that we had identified?”
Answering that was tricky for this midsize post-industrial city, which was designated as “financially distressed” from 2003 until early 2018. For Ervin, the challenge went beyond raising funds for new initiatives. He wanted to ensure the city’s spending — all of its spending — aligned with its climate and equity promises. “If we’re going to address the climate challenge,” he remembers thinking, “we’re going to have to start to leverage our existing resources to do the things that we know we need to do.”
For Steel City, that meant scrutinizing its entire spending plan through a climate lens with the help of a method called priority-based budgeting.
Priority-based budgeting, on the other hand, maps every single dollar a city spends to a specific program — everything from “rodent baiting” to recycling collection — then scores each one according to how it achieves the city’s priorities. Although the method could be used in the private sector, it was developed for local governments, which work toward the common good rather than a profit margin.
Read the full article about Pittsburgh's funding for climate by Claire Elise Thompson at Grist.