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Oct. 21, 2010: Sustainability Survey Shows Local Governments' Progress Is Slow

October 21, 2010
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WASHINGTON - Results of a national survey on sustainability developed with input from the International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA’s) Center for Sustainable Communities, the Center for Urban Innovation, Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability (ASU GIOS), the Alliance for Innovation, and others show that most local governments consider energy conservation and the environment to be key priorities. However, specific plans regarding sustainability are slow to take hold.

According to the survey, 70 percent of respondents called “energy conservation” a “priority” (46 percent) or a “high priority” (24 percent). Similarly, nearly two-thirds of local government respondents (62 percent), consider the “environment” a priority, including 21 percent of respondents calling it a “high priority.”

Despite the above responses, specific plans are slower to be enacted. When asked what specific planning actions related to sustainability and energy conservation they had taken, only 29 percent had adopted a resolution outlining specific policy goals - and that was the most popular response. Additionally, most localities had yet to assign dedicated staff to sustainability efforts (27 percent had), establish specific benchmarks related to sustainability (19 percent), establish or appoint a task force (28 percent), or provide a budget specifically for their efforts (16 percent).

Localities do show progress embracing energy conservation actions. A strong majority (63 percent) of localities had conducted energy audits of government buildings, 56 percent had upgraded or retrofitted office lighting, and 44 percent had increased the purchase of fuel-efficient government vehicles. Meanwhile, few localities reported the establishment of public/private partnerships to establish energy reduction measures in local small businesses - only 6 percent reported doing so.

Actions related to water conservation are advanced, but still not widespread. Thirty-four percent of localities had taken actions to conserve the quantity of water from aquifers, 33 percent had adopted a water price structure to encourage conservation, 30 percent had set limits on impervious surfaces on private property, and 28 percent had provided other incentives to encourage local water conservation behavior.

Approximately one in 10 localities require Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or Energy Star certification for all new government construction. Close to 8 percent require LEED or Energy Star certification for all retrofit government projects.

For the complete sustainability survey results, go to http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/301646/ICMA_2010_ Sustainability_Survey_Results.

Publication date: 10/18/2010

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