The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act allocates $370 billion in funding to tackle climate change – creating new opportunities for local governments and elected officials to step up climate action.
To gain insight into how local governments may direct this financial backing, the 2022 Mayors and the Climate Crisis Menino Survey collected input from 118 mayors to assess general views on climate change, levels of enthusiasm for addressing it, and the preferred methods for doing so.
All mayors represented cities with populations greater than 75,000 -spanning a total of 38 states.
Of mayors surveyed, 90 percent now believe climate change is human-driven. An overwhelming 97 percent are concerned about climate impacts on their cities – largely citing worries over flooding, extreme heat, and air pollution, with geographic variations.
When asked to identify their top two energy concerns, 57 percent of mayors cited rising energy costs, while 47 percent chose environmental impacts…only 14 percent reported no concerns.
Seventy – three percent of mayors want to act on climate – even if it is costly. The agree that cities should allocate financial resources to engage in significant climate action, with nearly 80 percent driven by a “desire to do our part”, irrespective of where climate impacts happen.
Mayors favor regulatory power – over building codes and zoning – as their top two most powerful potential climate tools. They are much more hesitant to address or restrict individual behaviors or choices.
The most popular local climate action among mayors is replacing municipal fleets with more fuel-efficient vehicles. Along the same lines, mayors favored “carrots over sticks” – allocating resources and creating choices for consumers as opposed to restricting them.
Ultimately, the decisions of local leaders influence or impact their constituents – the voting public. Over half of the mayors surveyed felt that making progress on climate will require their constituents to make real sacrifice. This may mean changes to lifestyles, habits, or alterations to other “business as usual”. For mayors to act on climate, voters must support them even through decisions that may exceed an established “comfort zone.” The IRA provides an excellent window of opportunity to create a healthier, more sustainable future, but needs the support of local government and voters to attain its greatest potential.