Question: How can Knoxville lead on climate change?

Answer: Be bold, base actions on science, and involve the community.

Maggie Shober | September 25, 2019 | Climate Change, Elections, Energy Policy, Tennessee

We’ve written recently about the potential for Knoxville’s next mayor to direct the city toward being a regional leader on addressing the climate crisis. But what would an aggressive plan to meet climate goals look like, and how should it come about? We’ll go over a potential framework to use here, and have included some examples of what other cities are doing to meet the challenge.

Framework for a Successful Climate Action Plan

Formulating a Climate Action Plan is a daunting task, so let’s not reinvent the wheel. C40 has a good framework for approaching the planning process that Knoxville (or any city working on a Climate Action Plan) could use.

  1. Commit to engage community members and businesses in a collaborative manner throughout the process.
  2. Understand evidence base, including existing city conditions, baseline emissions, and set science-based emission trajectories.
  3. Define, prioritize, and fund actions, including monitoring, reporting, and revision.

The the City of Knoxville has already taken steps on #1 & 2, by expressing interest in engaging in community conversations about how to attain these goals and performing an emission inventory. Now is a good time to look elsewhere for ideas to bring back to Knoxville. Fortunately, there are more and more cities every day taking action to address the emissions that are warming the planet. Here are a few examples from the Southeast that can serve as inspiration for Knoxville.


Orlando, FL completed its second Green Works Orlando Community Action Plan in 2018. The city boasts a wide range of accomplishments from its first plan, including

The new plan identifies many more actions to be taken. For example, the city wants to build on investments made in partnership with its municipal utility to study how to transition to a 100% renewable energy future, and to accelerate clean energy investment and jobs in low-income communities.


Atlanta, GA is another southeast leader on climate action planning. Atlanta’s accomplishments include

Atlanta’s plan, Resilient Atlanta: Actions to Build an Equitable Future, places these actions squarely within a context of achieving the community’s broader social goals.


Austin, TX also has a great climate action plan featuring a comprehensive carbon-neutral fleet plan. Over the past decade, the fleet plan yielded important lessons:

  • Centralization of fleet operations using city-owned infrastructure
  • Its fleet management system that tracks “everything about the vehicles”
  • Driver education

Today, the plan has shifted focus to acquiring electric vehicles, which are rapidly becoming available to meet most of the city’s needs. Austin is one of the leaders in driving down procurement costs via the Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle Purchasing Collaborative.

How can Lessons from other Cities Help Knoxville?

Knoxville has much in common with these climate-leading cities, such as community economic and social aspirations and opportunities to thrive while adapting to a future that brings uncertain challenges. But Knoxville differs from these cities in one key aspect: its relationship with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which is the sole provider of electricity for Knoxvillians. Because of this nuance, it is absolutely critical that we keep putting pressure on KUB and TVA to do what its customers want: address the climate crisis in an equitable way.

Maggie Shober
Maggie Shober works to speed the clean energy transformation in the Southeast through analysis and advocacy. She has expertise in renewable energy, energy efficiency, coal retirements, energy market modeling, and…
My Profile