Reaching for climate-neutrality in our municipal administrations

The district of Ludwigsburg (DE) shows the way forward by making climate action a team effort!

Municipal climate action tasks are extensive and an increasing number of municipalities are also looking at their own sphere of influence. The climate-neutral administration has become a buzzword – but where do you start, who do you involve and how do you implement it? The district administration office of Ludwigsburg shows just how such an ambitious project can succeed.

"The path towards a climate-neutral administration is a major change process that affects all organisational departments and employees. A goal-oriented and well-structured approach is therefore essential," comments Tina Prietz, Climate Neutral Administration Project Manager at Ludwigsburg District Office, on the basic requirements for the process. For Ludwigsburg, it all started in 2021 when the team at the district administration office first reviewed handouts from other municipalities and recommendations from the German Environment Agency. The result was a five stage process: analysing and developing the organisational structure; defining responsibilities and establishing teams; defining the target and assessing the initial situation; developing and implementing measures; and monitoring and controlling.

The team at the district administration office sees the involvement of all administrative levels and employees as a key success factor for this process. Their inclusive approach consists of three main areas: awareness-raising, participation and institutionalisation. Employees, for example, were made aware of and inspired by climate action issues via the intranet and the district office app. They were also actively involved in defining targets and planning measures, true to the motto "shape, don’t just execute". The team has also ensured that climate action is institutionalised as a collective task, for example, through regular strategy committee meetings, climate checks to review all documents and ‘climate pilots’ – committed employees who contribute ideas and act as multipliers within the administration.

In Ludwigsburg, the approach resulted in an ambitious goal: the district administration is aiming for climate neutrality by 2035! "For climate neutrality, not only the target year is considered. The journey becomes the goal,” explains Prietz. “This requires annual monitoring, not only on the basis of an energy and greenhouse gas inventory (top-down), but also with the help of various indicators depending on the measure (bottom-up). As an example, for the climate-friendly vehicle fleet (M1) measure, the main indicator, proportion of climate-neutral vehicles in the total fleet, was defined with the goal of 100% by 2035."

On the basis of an annual climate and energy report, the administration can then evaluate the measures implemented and make any necessary adjustments. "We want to present the first climate and energy report to the political sub-committee in April. With the adoption of updated measures, the administration will then be well prepared for the budget submission," adds Tina Prietz. The measures envisaged by the district administration pursue two sub-goals: a rapid reduction in the consumption of energy and raw materials through increased energy efficiency and energy-saving behaviour, as well as coverage of the remaining energy requirements via the expansion of renewable energy systems on municipal land. The project team also hopes that anchoring climate action at the highest levels of the administration along with deep renovation of the district's own buildings will be highly effective.

When asked for tips for other municipalities still at the beginning of the task, Prietz points to a central challenge that her team also faced: all employees must be included despite having different levels knowledge on the topic – whether a person has already gained experience in climate action, is new to the field or simply has too little time for additional tasks. "The key is to value the work of colleagues and to convey that it won't work without them and their experience. If you can not only make demands, but also provide support as a climate protection officer while firmly integrating climate action as a collective task throughout the administration, then the foundation for good cooperation has been laid," adds Tina Prietz.

The district of Ludwigsburg’s example shows how the course can be set for a climate-neutral administration. It takes a goal-orientated approach, structured processes, participation and motivated employees!

Written February 2024