Journal of Environmental Management

Evaluation of emission reduction and other societal and environmental outcomes: Structured decision making for the Louisiana climate action plan

Nov 1, 2023

Climate action planning continues to accelerate rapidly across the globe as communities seek to prepare to thrive in an uncertain future. Climate action planning is a particularly contentious and complex topic in the southern United States, however, because of significant economic reliance on industries that contribute substantially to greenhouse gas emissions, and due to a complicated relationship between industry and persistent racial and economic inequities that contribute to distrust between communities, businesses, and state governments. Within the last decade, research efforts have begun to evaluate approaches used to develop city, state, and national-level climate action plans, finding that planning efforts are often as diverse as the localities they represent. Climate action planning processes that evaluate the potential implications of climate action on greenhouse gas emissions and societal values are often driven by either qualitative stakeholder engagement or by the results of numerical models. While both approaches are valuable, they also have limitations that can result in climate action plans that are unrealistic or unimplementable. Limited research is available that assesses planning efforts that integrate multiple evaluation methodologies. In this study, we evaluate the strengths and limitations of integrating qualitative and quantitative climate action evaluation methodologies in a planning process grounded in structured decision making using Louisiana as a case study. This mixed method planning approach applied both quantitative numerical models and qualitative expert elicitation to evaluate potential implications of climate action for Louisiana. We found that integration of approaches through a transparent, structured, and objectives-orientated process allowed for robust analysis of potential climate actions while engendering process buy-in across diverse stakeholder interests. This process ultimately resulted in the unanimous adoption of Louisiana's climate action plan, characterized by a wholistic and implementable set of climate actions balanced against the values of Louisianians. The process outlined in this study represents a replicable approach for other climate action planning efforts. Paper here.