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Localized Green Recovery Strategies Can Help Cities Build Back Better

New Rocky Mountain Institute research outlines five city-specific green recovery strategies that Congress could support with stimulus investments to help cities emerge from the pandemic with greater resilience.

Washington, DC – May 19, 2020

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today released the latest report in its Green Stimulus and Recovery series, recommending five strategies that Congress could take to direct stimulus investment toward helping cities recover and build back better from the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.

The recommended strategies aim to help cities build green economies that are better suited for the future and more resilient to future crises, including the climate crisis. The strategies outlined advance job creation, equity, public health and safety, resilience, and decarbonization.

“Cities and municipalities are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. And they are feeling the pain as they try to tackle unprecedented public health and unemployment crises while also navigating sudden and unexpected budget shortfalls,” said Carla Frisch, principal at RMI and co-author of the report. “For cities to effectively recover, federal stimulus investment is going to be critical.”

US City Stimulus: Advancing Localized Green Recovery and Resilience is the sixth in a series of reports that outline how targeted stimulus and recovery investments by countries and regions around the globe can simultaneously address both the pandemic-caused economic crisis and the looming climate crisis.

A previous report, US Stimulus Strategy: Recommendations for a Zero-Carbon Economic Recovery, addressed stimulus programs US policymakers could enact to advance a green recovery for the country as a whole. This new research focuses specifically on how stimulus investment could help US cities achieve a green recovery.

The five city-specific strategies outlined in the report are:

  • Automate and streamline permitting and create virtual inspections: This will reduce soft costs for cleantech, make the permitting process more resilient, and reduce city staff time spent processing permits.
  • Build electric, efficient, affordable housing and rehabilitate abandoned properties: A shift in our approach to housing will improve energy security, create three times as many jobs as investing in the fossil fuel sector, and revitalize communities.
  • Support public transit and active transportation modes: An enhanced share for public transit and other mobility modes will result in safer mobility, less pollution, and increased access to basic needs.
  • Enhance resilience for communities and critical infrastructure: Investing in greater resilience can improve city preparedness for the next crisis while creating jobs.
  • Green urban spaces: Urban greening can mitigate carbon dioxide and other pollutants, improve access to green space, revitalize communities, and create jobs that require minimal onboarding.

The analysis explains each of these recommended strategies in terms of the problems they address, how stimulus funding could be used by cities to advance solutions, and the various benefits that could result.

“Cities are dealing with some of the greatest challenges they’ve ever faced. There is an immediate need for disaster relief, as most cities were left out of initial federal stimulus relief. But after that immediate situation is dealt with, the focus will shift to rebuilding,” said Alisa Peterson, senior associate at RMI and co-author of the report. “The strategies in this report provide strategic pathways for recovery that create jobs, reduce air pollution, advance equity, and more—all while decarbonizing the economy.”

The previously released reports in the Green Stimulus and Recovery series included a report outlining a framework to guide global green stimulus investment. The series also includes four country- and region-specific reports containing recommendations to help optimize efforts in the United States, China, India, and the Caribbean. A report specific to Sub-Saharan Africa will be released in August.

To download the paper, please visit, US Stimulus Strategy: Recommendations for a Zero-Carbon Economic Recovery.

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About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Rocky Mountain Institute published India Leaps Ahead: Transformative Mobility Solutions for All with NITI Aayog in May 2017, and works with central government agencies like NITI Aayog, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and Department of Heavy Industries to support India’s transition to clean, shared, and connected mobility. More information on RMI can be found at or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.