Turn Local Commitments into Local Action: How to Use MAPC’s New Municipal Net Zero Playbook

Playbook Image

Turn Local Commitments
into Local Action

How to Use MAPC’s New Municipal Net Zero Playbook 

For over a decade, MAPC has worked with cities and towns on clean energy and climate. During this time, our agency has compiled many best practices and resources for how municipalities can advance action toward becoming net zero as a community. This means that the amount of emissions generated by said community is balanced with the amount of emissions taken out of the atmosphere or otherwise avoided.  The findings noted in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show us how crucial it is that we make substantial progress toward net zero as soon as possible. One of our key priorities in MetroCommon 2050, MAPC’s new regional plan, is for the region to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and we urge you to join us.  

MAPC’s Municipal Net Zero Playbook (“the Playbook”) provides cities and towns with guidance and resources to equitably bring their climate goals to fruition. The Playbook has four main chapters that focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions locally in transportation, buildings, energy supply, and zoning and permitting. Foundational frameworks on equity and action inform the chapters and how to get the most out of the playbook. 

How to Use the Playbook

As communities across the region accelerate climate action, this strategic guide can help municipal planners, energy/sustainability staff, and community members deploy efficient and equitable actions to match their local climate goals. The Playbook can help individuals participate more fully in community efforts to reach net zero, and to advocate for local and state policies that will help.

Step One: Explore the Frameworks

The Framework for Action and the Framework for Equity that ground the Playbook are the starting points for your net zero journey. No one municipality is the same, and these frameworks can help communities customize their Net Zero Action Plans by helping them to design impactful strategies, tailor equitable and accessible community engagement, and prioritize actions specific to their needs. The Framework for Action provides the guideposts for municipalities to develop their net zero plan, outlining the key components of the planning process. The Framework for Equity explains how climate issues intersect with existing inequities in our society and outlines steps communities can take during the planning process to center the voices of those who are most affected by climate change.  

Step Two: Explore the Action Chapters

The Playbook should be a resource for everyone in a community: municipal planning staff, sustainability committee members, key implementers from municipal departments, residents, small business owners, and many more. Take a moment to explore the action chapters below and their respective case studies to get a sense of what role you can play to help propel your community to net zero emissions. 

Zero Emissions Mobility

The Zero Emissions Mobility chapter tackles greenhouse gas emissions reductions through how individuals get around in their communities. The strategies noted represent an increase in electrification and a shift to biking, walking, and utilizing public transportation more frequently. 

Action Spotlight! Implement an EV car sharing program. 

Action H in the Zero Emissions Mobility chapter prompts municipalities to consider developing an income tiered electric vehicle (EV) car sharing program in partnership with community organizations and affordable housing developments. MAPC is excited to be a part of the project team supporting implementation of the Good2Go electric vehicle car sharing project in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. The Good2Go program offers affordable rates that are income tiered and provides users with bilingual support. Reservations are made via an app, but to make the program more accessible, there are also other ways for those without credit cards and/or a smartphone to become a member.  

Net Zero Buildings

The Net Zero Buildings chapter focuses on actions communities can take to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings and maximize clean energy in electricity, heating, and cooling systems. 

Action Spotlight! Increase clean energy uptake by partnering on outreach programs. 

Action D in the Net Zero Buildings chapter encourages municipalities to collaborate with service providers on outreach that can increase the uptake of clean energy measures in communities. The municipalities of Ashland, Natick, Framingham, and Holliston have partnered to run the MetroWest Solar + Clean Heat Challenge program. With this program, the municipalities are connecting their residents and small business owners with clean energy volunteers that provide them with information about clean energy technologies and additional resources that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their homes and businesses.   

Climate-Smart Zoning and Permitting

The Climate-Smart Zoning and Permitting chapter can help municipalities find ways to become leaders in utilizing their zoning and permitting to advance local policies and practices in small and big ways to help make our building stock more energy-efficient, renewable-powered, resilient, healthy, and comfortable for the future. 

Action Spotlight! Require energy efficiency licensing for rental units. 

Action I in the Climate-Smart Zoning and Permitting chapter encourages municipalities to reduce the barriers to energy efficiency in rental units. One case study can be seen in Somerville, where many residents rent their homes. In implementing the city’s climate action plan, municipal staff are taking steps to create a rental licensing program in the city. Rental licensing requires that certain actions, such as energy audits and weatherization, be implemented in rental properties and that they pass a regular inspection before the unit is leased to a new tenant. This helps to overcome the split incentive between renters and landlords whereby renters pay the utility bills but have little power to improve energy efficiency. 

Clean Energy Supply

The Clean Energy Supply chapter focuses on the transition to using 100% renewable sources of energy to meet energy needs.

Action Spotlight! Develop community shared solar projects that benefit low- and moderate-income residents. 

Many of the benefits of clean energy are going to people who own homes and can afford the technology. Action B in the Clean Energy Supply chapter describes how an equity-centered solar project can benefit people in a community who historically have been denied access to these benefits. An example of this kind of project is the Clearway Community Solar program, in which participants can access solar power and its cost and GHG savings without access to a roof. This means that renters can also subscribe to and benefit from these programs, which makes the energy transition more equitable.  

Step Three: Join us to Learn More!

The actions noted above are only a few examples of those that can be found in each chapter of the Playbook. The various actions noted in those chapters can be used as a menu for municipalities to be customized to fit their needs. From how residents travel within their communities every day to how building emissions can be reduced, the Playbook can help your community make the changes today for a better tomorrow. 

Learn all about MAPC’s new resources and how to tailor the actions to meet your community’s climate action goals at our upcoming launch webinar on November 22 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Register here.  

For any questions about the Playbook and MAPC’s net zero planning services, please contact Megan Aki, Clean Energy and Climate Systems Manager, at


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