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MAPC’s Municipal Net Zero Playbook

Clean Energy

MAPC's Municipal Net Zero Playbook

A strategic guide for municipal action to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050.

MAPC’s Municipal Net Zero Playbook (“the Playbook”) provides guidance and tools to equip cities and towns with the resources to tackle their climate goals in an efficient and equitable manner. MAPC’s Clean Energy Department developed the following chapters of the Playbook to support communities' local net zero planning processes.

The Playbook is an interdisciplinary tool for municipal planners, energy/sustainability staff, and volunteers that seeks to empower cities and towns to implement net zero actions within their communities. These resources will help local net zero action implementers understand their role in advancing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and advocating for critical local and state level policy changes.

You can watch the virtual launch of the Playbook from November 22, 2022, here.


For more information about Net Zero Planning, contact the Clean Energy Department (

MAPC developed two guiding frameworks to help communities navigate the Net Zero approach as they start out, or ramp up, their Net Zero journeys. The two frameworks, the Framework for Action and Framework for Equity, are the basis of MAPC’s selection of the resources and recommended actions included in each chapter of the Playbook. Cities and towns can use these two frameworks to inform community engagement, plan development, and strategy prioritization as they seek to customize their local Net Zero Action Plans. Check out our blog post on the frameworks here.

Framework for Action

MAPC’s Framework for Action outlines the essential components for a Net Zero planning process to assist the community in developing its own plan and (most importantly) turning that plan into local action. This framework also provides a set of Action Evaluation Criteria to assist in prioritizing the potential actions included in the Playbook.

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Framework for Equity

MAPC’s Framework for Equity provides communities with guidance at each stage of the planning process on how to implement equity in their Net Zero plans. This framework is a resource on how to develop Net Zero Plans that assess and acknowledge existing inequities and work to uplift and provide direct benefits to underserved communities.

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Drawing on our years of experience working with cities and towns in clean energy and climate, MAPC has compiled information on the best practices and actions municipalities can implement in their plans to advance toward Net Zero. Initially, the Playbook is comprised of four main chapters that target the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

The strategies included in each chapter of the Playbook are not comprehensive. They are meant as a starting point for customization within a community’s Net Zero Action Plan. The actions we have selected should challenge communities to set ambitious but achievable goals for 2050.

Zero Emissions Mobility

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This chapter of the Playbook tackles reducing GHG emissions from how people get around a community. The recommended actions will examine ways a city or town can encourage biking, walking, and use of public transportation, develop zero emission vehicle infrastructure, encourage adoption of zero emission vehicles, and lead by example within the municipal fleet.

Explore MAPC's related resources on clean vehicle technologies.

Climate-Smart Zoning and Permitting

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This chapter of the Playbook unpacks the strategic approach municipalities can take within their local zoning and permitting process to make their communities climate-smart. The recommended actions examine ways a city or town can allow net zero enabling technologies by-right, establish climate zoning overlays, mandate energy efficiency and renewable energy, and streamline and expedite permitting for net zero buildings.

Explore MAPC's related resources on climate zoning.

Clean Energy Supply

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This chapter of the Playbook lays out the steps cities and towns can take to transition to 100 percent renewable sources of energy. The recommended actions examine ways a city or town can increase renewable energy generation and access, build smart and resilient energy infrastructure, and reduce the carbon impact of the energy system.

Explore MAPC's related resources on green municipal aggregation and solar contracting.

Net Zero Buildings

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This chapter of the Playbook provides guidance on how to transition to clean heating and cooling throughout homes and businesses while make them significantly more energy efficient to maximize reductions in GHG emissions. The recommended actions examine ways a city or town can reduce emissions from existing buildings, electrify heating and cooling in new and existing buildings, and adopt net zero building policies.

Explore MAPC's related resources on clean heating and cooling and building codes.

Sustainable Design Guidelines

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These design guidelines are intended for residential and mixed-use new development or retrofit projects. The guidelines serve as part of a toolkit for advancing the stock of energy-efficient, affordable, and resilient living spaces. Housing developers should use these guidelines, in tandem with local ordinances and state building codes, in coordination with local building and sustainability departments. These guidelines were developed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in collaboration with the cities of Melrose, Malden, and Medford with support from a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Action Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Ready For More?

Each Playbook chapter represents the short list of best practices that MAPC has assessed to be widely applicable and impactful for communities across Massachusetts. Contact the Clean Energy Department (, to learn more about how you can contract directly with MAPC to customize or expand these actions for your community’s Net Zero Action Plan or identify new or alternative approaches that meet your community’s needs.



Net Zero Building Case Studies Webinar
Hosted by MAPC, December 11, 2018

Planning for Net Zero Resources Sneak Preview
Hosted by MAPC, September 12, 2017


The Carbon-Free City Handbook
Rocky Mountain Institute, November 2017

100% RE Building Blocks
A practical toolkit for a sustainable transition to 100% Renewable Energy; 100% Renewables

A Guide to Taking Action in Your Community
A tool for communities seeking local clean energy options; Acadia Center, November 2017