Climate Action Planning in City of Missoula, Part 1: Multistakeholder Enagement and Goal Setting

Photo by Evan Lovley

From the ICLEI USA Climate Action Series this article was produced by Katelyn Manzer and Samuel Krasnobrod, graduates from the University of Colorado-Boulder. The below is based on their conversation with City of Missoula, MT, Energy Conservation Coordinator, Chase Jones. Throughout 2017, Manzer and Krasnobrod interned with ICLEI USA to conduct research on city-university collaboration, culminating in a “City-University Collaborations” webinar and website of case studies. Contact to explore city-university collaboration or climate action planning offerings for your community.

Surrounded by national forest, mountainous terrain, and nearby Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the city of Missoula, MT, is not only unique because of its beautiful surrounding environment. The city also boasts a history in climate action planning dating back to 1996, when they joined the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign and the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Today the city has ramped up such efforts in such a way that they have become a leader in reducing emissions and striving for greater city sustainability. Read on to hear some of what Chase Jones had to say about the city’s climate action progress during an interview held in January 2018.

Can you tell us a bit about the progression of climate action planning throughout Missoula’s history?

Chase Jones: I joined the City in 2008. Around this time, a group of graduate students from the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana approached the Mayor inquiring about whether they could contribute a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for city municipal operations, as a semester project. The City engaged with that class and gave them the ICLEI tools (Clean Air and Climate Protection tool, or CACP, the precursor to the Web-based ClearPath tool) to complete this baseline emissions inventory for municipal operations.

This report included recommendations for how the city could follow up with climate action planning, one of these being that the city complete a climate action plan (CAP). This work was then presented to City Council and to the public, and was refined into the Missoula Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Analysis.

Around this same time, the city of Missoula received funding from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), which allowed more climate action planning. This really helped the city and our Mayor, John Engen, saw this as our opportunity to follow up on the recommendations outlined in the emissions inventory. We started this process by identifying groups within Missoula which were somewhat disparate in their work, but all of which were working toward a common goal.

What opportunities existed for multi-stakeholder engagement on climate action?

CJ: The Mayor and I saw opportunity in aligning and uniting various groups, and proceeded to gather representatives from each to create a Citizen Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Sustainability and a similar sub-committee of City Council members. Together, these representatives helped form the voluntary Citizens and Staff Task Force: a team which would formally help craft our CAP.

We started our climate action planning by understanding and highlighting our purpose for crafting a CAP. This provided a foundation of support for the adoption of the plan and helped us communicate with a broad audience in Missoula. Communicating with many stakeholders of our community is important because we want members of our community to be invested in this work. Not everybody may be enthused by acting on climate change but may be interested in saving money or in our government operating efficiently. So, discovering what excites different people helped us build support.

How did the city define an emissions-reduction target?

CJ: Our climate action planning process continued with specifying our goal, which became meeting carbon neutrality by 2025 for government operations. This aligned with a plan that the University of Montana had previously crafted, which specified a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2020.

After establishing our goal, we determined strategies and tactics for reducing greenhouse gas emissions based on components of our operations which could most contribute to achieving our goal. These main units were categorized as fleet and facilities, internal policies and practices, and renewable energy and carbon offsets. These units provided a framework for focusing climate action efforts.

The Advisory Committee and Task Force then discussed ideas for moving forward from all contributors, studied similar plans from other cities, and refined actionable initiatives which were translated into what is now known as Missoula’s Conservation and Climate Action Plan.

A special thank you to Chase Jones of Missoula, Montana for taking the time to be interviewed. If you have questions about this interview or want to receive resources for climate action planning, contact

Katelyn Manzer received her Masters in the Policy and Management specialization of the Masters of the Environment Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Kate is interested in getting involved with sustainability efforts in ski towns and resorts, as skiing is when she feels she is most spiritually aligned with Superwoman. She has been excited to work with ICLEI USA on her capstone project and research, and looks forward to impacting university sustainability efforts worldwide through collaboration with local governments.


Samuel Krasnobrod received his Masters in the Policy and Management specialization of the Masters of the Environment Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has had experience in the field, lab, and as a statistical research assistant during his undergraduate career. Sam hopes to pursue a career that allows him the opportunity to explain complex policy decisions made in the sustainability field in a way that everyone can understand. He sees himself working for a private consulting firm or local government to achieve this goal.

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