How has the COVID Crisis Impacted Local Governments’ Sustainability Efforts? An Examination of Initial Effects
Although many U.S. municipalities have adopted climate protection and sustainability as explicit objectives, they are not among their traditional responsibilities. As a result, compared to policies focused around core functions, those related to sustainability may be at greater risk of retrenchment or change in times of crisis. This research examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted local governments’ sustainability efforts. Using data from a nation-wide survey, we examine the degree to which the pandemic has affected programmatic priorities, resources, and operations related to sustainability. Findings indicate that the pandemic hurt the implementation of sustainability initiatives in almost half of U.S. cities. At the same time, many cities increased the priority of economic and social sustainability initiatives in response to the pandemic. Cities which have formally included sustainability principles into a city plan appear more sensitive to COVID-induced challenges to their program operations.
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