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United States’ Climate Action Plan 2015



What should be the United States’ plan to address climate change?
Submit proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the 2015 Contest Rules. and Terms of Use.
Deadline: Monday, August 31 at 23:59:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.


This contest invites the global community to work together to develop coherent plans for how the United States as a whole – its government, businesses, other organizations, and citizens – can take effective action to address climate change.

Working as an individual or in a team, you can select plans for each of the five major sectors of the economy and propose them as an effective set of actions that the United States can take to address climate change.  The five sectors are:  energy supply, transportation, industry, buildings, and all others (which specifically includes agriculture, forestry, and other land use, as well as waste management). With help from the Impact Assessment Fellows, you will be able to see your plan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenario from 2020 to 2050, and compare that with a business-as-usual emission scenario. You should also select a plan for one other “sector” (called “adaptation”) that includes actions to adapt to changes caused by global climate change such as changing temperatures and rising sea levels.

No single organization–including the United States' government–could create and implement a complete climate action plan all by itself. Instead, successful action will require work by many different organizations and people.  

Articulating a vision for the United States as a whole has great potential value, since it can demonstrate that there is a plausible path forward. And such a vision can serve as a roadmap for the many disparate organizations and people whose efforts must be enlisted.

This contest is part of a pilot test of a new initiative in the Climate CoLab to develop integrated proposals for addressing climate change at the regional and global levels. Learn more.  If you have feedback on the approach, please let us know by sending email to

You are invited to discuss about strategies for creating regional and global climate action plans with the Climate CoLab community on the Forum:

Key Issues

Any comprehensive combination of actions to address climate change across a country or region must necessarily involve:

Judging Criteria

Plans will be evaluated based on:

Note: You are welcome to select proposals that did not win prizes or even become semifinalists in other contests.  You may, for instance, find proposals that were overlooked in the original judging of those contests or that have some special relevance when combined with other proposals in your overall plan. 


Judges' Choice and Popular Choice winners will receive a special invitation to attend selected sessions at MIT’s SOLVE conference and showcase their work before key constituents in a workshop the next day. A few select Climate CoLab winners will join distinguished SOLVE attendees in a highly collaborative problem-solving session.

In addition, if your United States plan is included in one or more winning global plans, you will receive Climate CoLab Points, and the top point-getters will receive shares of a cash prize of $10,000.

An integrated proposal (such as a regional or global plan) includes ideas from all the people who contributed to the sub-proposals, not just those who created the integrated proposal itself.   To recognize all these contributions, a winning integrated proposal receives CoLab Points that are distributed among all these people.  The top point-getters will receive shares of a cash prize of $10,000.  Read more.

Submission Format

Building the plan. Your plan should consist of a collection of actions, which, when taken together, could effectively address climate change in this region.

You can select actions from:




Your plan should include actions that will impact these six sectors: 

Energy Supply



Buildings (commercial and residential)

Other (including agriculture, forestry, other land use, and waste management)

Adaptation (preparing for the impacts of climate change)


You will also be asked to: 

justify how the actions you selected fit together;

describe the key benefits, costs, challenges and timeline of the plan;

and estimate (working the Impact Assessment Fellows) the emissions that would result from the actions proposed (see below).


Tip:  When editing your proposal, use the proposal icon at the upper right of the toolbar select proposals. You can also use the hyperlink button to link in ideas from websites outside of the Climate CoLab. 


Evaluating impact. A key part of a climate action plan is an overall estimate of the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the combination of all the actions you propose, decade by decade, from 2020 to 2050.

See your proposal’s impact tab for guidance on how to estimate these emissions.  You can also work with the Climate CoLab Impact Assessment Fellows, who can help you use the impact tools on the platform. 


Building blocks for global plans

In addition to being completed pieces on their own, regional plans also serve as building blocks for the development of plans on a global level.  The Climate CoLab Global Plan contest invites individuals and teams to build plans for how the world as a whole can address climate change.  Authors may select regional plans submitted in this contest to include as a part of their global plan, and global and regional plan authors are strongly encouraged to work together.  In many cases, the same teams may create both global and regional plans that are designed to be compatible.

Resources for Proposal Authors

The United States of America is far from consensus on climate change. With a diverse population of over 300 million, and a broad political, economic, and ecological landscape, the U.S. has struggled for decades to agree on the science of greenhouse gasses. A financially powerful lobby for fossil fuel companies and related industries have contributed to dividing the United States Congress as well as the American public, 50 percent of whom remain unconvinced that humans have caused recent climate change. As a result, substantial proposals to reduce emissions - like the Obama Administration’s 2010 proposal for economy-wide carbon cap-and-trade[1] - have failed.

In the absence of national-level planning, the U.S. has relied on laws and regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation have established fuel economy standards for light vehicles through 2025 and for heavy-duty vehicles through 2018. The Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act have directed the U.S. Department of Energy’s establishment of energy conservation standards for buildings and appliances.[2] In addition, political inaction at the national level has sparked climate change planning at the state and subregional levels, as discussed below.

Presently, the United States is responsible for the following greenhouse gas contributions by sector[3]:

Sector Region Year Value*
Buildings United States 2015 545
Energy United States 2015 2,265
Industry United States 2015 1,513
Transportation United States 2015 1,680
Other United States 2015 -426

million metric tons of CO2 equivalent


In 2013, President Obama’s Administration released a broad Climate Action Plan focused on cutting carbon pollution and preparing the U.S. for climate change impacts. This plan noted new rules and goals for the Buildings, Energy, Industry, and Transportation sectors. For example, the Plan directs:

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan set a goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030.[4]

As a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United States has committed:

“The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.”    

As mentioned above, a number of U.S. states and regional partnerships have, in the absence of specific federal guidance, produced their own action plans and policy recommendations to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The EPA provides brief descriptions of and links to those plans here:

  1. For a history of this legistlation, see:
  2. Source:
  3. For an explanation of the data and sectors, see:
  4. Source: