Publication Detail

Prioritizing Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Strategies for Local Governments Using Marginal Abatement Cost


Journal Article

UC Pavement Research Center, Energy and Efficiency Institute

Suggested Citation:
Lozano, Mark, Alissa Kendall, Ali A. Butt, Arash Saboori, John T. Harvey, Changmo Kim (2021) Prioritizing Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Strategies for Local Governments Using Marginal Abatement Cost. Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability 1 (025005)

Cities and other subnational jurisdictions have emerged as key agents for plans and policies to mitigate global climate change, with many presenting their strategies through climate action plans (CAPs). A critical review of CAPs from local government jurisdictions in California found that many CAPs lacked quantitative information on the economic cost and emissions reductions of proposed strategies, precluding decision-making based on the cost-effectiveness of competing policies. In response, this study develops a framework for comparing strategies based on their life cycle emissions mitigation potential and life cycle costs in a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) to allow for side-by-side comparison. This framework was piloted with the cooperation of two California counties, Yolo and Los Angeles, to analyze six strategies in the transportation sector: intercity bike lanes, installation of roundabout intersections, alternative pavement rehabilitation, electric bus fleet, alternative fuel city fleet and installation of solar canopies in parking lots. Applying the life cycle approach revealed strategies that had net cost savings over their life cycle, indicating there are opportunities for reducing emissions and costs (roundabout intersections and solar canopies). The life cycle accounting processes also revealed that some emissions reduction strategies in fact increased emissions relative to no action (intercity bike lanes and alternative pavement rehabilitation). Despite the attractiveness of a life cycle-based MACC to support local government decision-making, there is the mismatch between a life cycle perspective and the annual emissions accounting used in most CAPs and associated policies. Future work should explore how to marry the life cycle and annual accounting methods and incorporate other sustainability concerns, such as equity and environmental justice, to support local decision-making.

Key words: climate change, climate change action plans, life cycle emisions, transportation, policy, decision-making, California