Who we are
The Local Climate Action Program (LCAP) is built on a simple idea: cooperation can make Pennsylvania’s communities draw down carbon emissions and support the places we call home. The LCAP brings Penn State students, faculty, local governments, and experts from different fields together to support and create a thriving and prosperous future for all Pennsylvanians.
What we do
The LCAP partners upper-level Penn State students with Pennsylvania’s local governments to determine a community’s contribution to climate change and help that government develop plans to draw down carbon emissions and adapt to a changing climate. In the fall semester, our students develop a working relationship with local government staff and officials. Using publicly available data from utilities, authorities, and other sources, they create a sector-based greenhouse gas emissions inventory using ICLEI ClearPath software. They adapt this report into a presentation and deliver it to their municipal or county partners. In the spring, our partners formulate a project that our students can deliver. The project can assist in greenhouse gas reduction, resilience, or a combination of the two. Students and our co-directors can help set up a planning process, troubleshoot solar cooperatives, create communication and education materials, explore impact fees, or develop reports on model zoning ordinances. At the end of the day, we want to ensure our students have a rich and professional experience and that Pennsylvania’s citizens and localities are well-served.
Over the last four years, students have served dozens of Pennsylvania counties and municipalities. They range in size from the small borough of Wormleysburg to small cities like Easton and historic cities like Erie and Scranton as well as Bucks and Chester County that surround Philadelphia. The total population of our LCAP participants is at least 2 million people. In the first three years, students from several Allegheny, Bucknell, Dickinson, Gettysburg, Lycoming, Penn State, Temple, Wilkes, and other colleges and universities worked directly with ICLEI and the DEP to conduct greenhouse gas inventories and basic climate action plans.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection created the Local Climate Action Program (LCAP) in 2019 through its Energy Office. Renowned climate ethicist Don Brown (Awardee of UNESCO’s Avicenna Award for Excellent in Ethics and Science, Faculty at Widener University Law School) had wanted Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to provide climate-related expertise and assistance to communities to mitigate emissions. Heidi Kunsch, under then-Governor Tom Wolfe and Sec. Patrick O’Donnell, started the LCAP. They partnered university students from around Pennsylvania with municipalities to do greenhouse gas emissions inventories and climate action planning has come to Penn State.
In 2022, DEP turned this program over to Penn State. Today, it is run by Brandi Robinson (Teaching Professor, Energy and Sustainability Policy) and Peter Buck (Penn State Sustainability). They collaborate with Chris Nafe in the DEP’s Energy Office and Eli Yewdall from ICLEI. The ongoing partnership provides certainty regarding utility data, expert guidance with ClearPath software, and access to state and national networks of climate organizations.
Penn State students from many degree programs are welcome. If you want to go into environmental policy, energy services, corporate or government operations and compliance, applied climate science, advocacy, communications, or the growing fields of ESG or sustainable finance and operations, this program is for you. We have had Energy Engineering, Energy Business and Finance, Environmental Resource Management, Finance, Renewable Energy and Sustainable Systems, Sustainability Leadership, and other programs participate. Students must commit to enrolling for fall and spring semesters and recognize that these courses should be your top academic priority. It is a time-consuming course sequence that requires technical skills, a high degree of communication, maturity, and personal flexibility. The LCAP is managed to continue the stewardship of this award-winning program DEP.
Having this sort of experience on a resume is truly invaluable and so I strongly encourage you to consider this opportunity. To that end, you can only complete this program if you are otherwise eligible to take the classes you’ll be subbing them for. For students in Environmental Resource Management, Community, Environment, and Development, Geography, Earth Sustainability Policy, and Sustainability Leadership, we can work with advisers to make sure that requirements are being met.
Municipal or County Governments
If your township, borough, city, or county Board or staff wants to take climate action, we can help. There is no perfect place to begin. You might be a municipal manager or planning director with a charge from your Board to get ready for 100% renewable energy. You might be the chair or a supervisor on a Board who is looking for ways to assist your public works staff to take the next steps. Or maybe you’re a citizen looking for tools. Tell us about yourself.