Convening a community-led climate initiative in Virginia

Leading a working group to achieve consensus on the strategies and actions needed to reduce GHG emissions in Fairfax County.

RESULTS AT A GLANCE

>50
community members of the Working Group
>25
total community feedback meetings
Fairfax County, Virginia, is home to about 1.15 million people and the community has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050. We facilitated a community-driven CECAP Working Group to set greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals for the community. We also built models to show the potential GHG reductions of various strategies. The final action plan was accepted by the Board of Supervisors in September 2021.

Challenge

In 2018, the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC)—an advisory group appointed by the Board of Supervisors—proposed the creation of a community-led climate plan to establish how the county would meet its carbon reduction goals. The Board of Supervisors voted to support the development of the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) in 2019.

Typically, these types of plans are undertaken through a top-down approach. Recognizing that this plan would impact residents, businesses, and other county stakeholders, the Board of Supervisors wanted the community to be directly involved in determining the areas of focus.

Solution

In collaboration with county staff, we facilitated the Working Group which included members of local businesses, utilities, environmental groups, religious organizations, and social justice institutions. We also incorporated broader public input through surveys, meetings, and feedback sessions.

While our original plan called for a series of in-person meetings, we shifted to a virtual meeting environment due to COVID. We made use of online collaboration tools and virtual meeting environments to reach more people, effectively brainstorm, and share ideas.

We also built out a model to evaluate the potential GHG reduction of each strategy the Working Group considered for the plan. They identified various priorities and we showed them a working model of how well that action could be used to reduce GHG emissions.

Results

Read the full report

We compiled our recommendations after achieving consensus from a wide variety of stakeholders. The Working Group collectively agreed on 12 strategies and 37 actions for the community to reduce GHG emissions in Fairfax County.

The sector-specific goals include goals specific to the building and energy efficiency sector, the energy supply sector, the transportation sector, the natural resources sector, and the waste sector.

Fairfax County GHG Emissions Reductions (MT CO2e)

Sector-specific goals include:

+100,000

housing units retrofit with energy efficiency measures by 2030

50%

tree canopy coverage in every census block by 2050

30%

of commuters will cycle, walk, or work from home by 2030
With the Board of Supervisors accepting the recommendations, CECAP showcases how businesses, organizations, and residents can work together to make significant, community-wide reductions to GHG emissions that drive climate change.