City of South Bend (IN) Carbon Neutral 2050 Planning

In 2019 Delta Institute worked with the City of South Bend, Indiana to develop a plan for the City to become carbon neutral by 2050. Our work encompassed Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventories, community canvassing and feedback, and achievable recommendations and road-mapping for all municipal departments, with an emphasis on reductions in transportation and energy.

Delta provided the City of South Bend and then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Administration with an actionable municipal plan to reduce emissions, called Carbon Neutral 2050. The plan targets transportation and energy use in buildings, which were found to be the largest sources of GHGs in South Bend. Strategies were prioritized for their ability to provide the most substantial emissions cuts while maximizing benefits to residents and businesses.


Why Our Work is Needed Today

Climate change is a global issue that has local impacts across the United States, including in South Bend. Mitigation that includes actions that reduce the release of GHG emissions is essential to limiting the impacts of climate change. The South Bend community embraces a forward-looking attitude toward technology, innovation, and inclusion. Specifically, many South Bend residents believe that with advances is scientific understanding and mitigation technology, there will be more opportunities to reduce GHG emissions.


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Carbon Neutral 2050, a climate action plan, is intended to 1) contextualize the need for greenhouse gas emission mitigation in South Bend, 2) provide an overview of the City’s current emissions inventory, and 3) identify high-priority strategies and actions for short, medium, and long-term reductions across each sector of the community. Recommended actions in this climate action plan are targeted to help the City of South Bend achieve high impact GHG emission reductions over three time horizons, each relative to their 2005 baseline.

As with all Delta-led climate mitigation and resilience planning, we focused on co-created Guiding Principles that provided overarching intent, approach, and “North Star” of our efforts. For the City of South Bend, these Guiding Principles were:

The impacts of climate change are often disproportionately burdensome on low income and minority populations. Additionally, strategies for mitigating the impacts of climate change can sometimes be unaffordable, regressive, or not beneficial to these more vulnerable communities. This Plan has focused on producing equity-centered mitigation outcomes.

A plan that can be measured is a plan that can be managed. For South Bend to meaningfully benchmark its progress towards mitigation between now and 2050, clear targets and metrics have been developed as key components of the plan.

Each community and region present their own assets, challenges, opportunities, and weaknesses. The existing organizations, structures, processes, and systems in each location are drivers of or barriers to implementation of any mitigation strategy. While useful climate strategies can be pulled from around the
globe, this plan prioritizes solutions that most clearly fit South Bend’s institutions, demographics, natural environment, regional economy, and infrastructure.

Practical, Achievable, and Affordable
Oftentimes, the highest-impact strategies are not the most feasible. Considering the importance that this plan be actionable for the city, strategies were prioritized based on how achievable they were for the community, municipality, and other agencies, and whether they proved to be too expensive or at the cost of other priorities, like quality of life, access, and economic opportunity.

Driving change typically requires a mixture of incentives and regulations. Incentives (like grants, loans, and credits) drive change financially. Regulations and policies (like ordinances and permitting requirements) drive change through the legal process. While regulations may not cost a municipality much to implement, they can prove to be onerous and expensive to property owners and developers. Given South Bend’s status as a rebounding post-industrial city, concerns exist that increasing regulations could weaken promising economic growth. Therefore, greater emphasis has been placed on incentive-based strategies.

As with any plan, successful implementation will require numerous points of collaboration between municipal government, area-wide agencies, institutions, private enterprise, and non-profits. This plan treats such partnerships as fundamental.



Delta is grateful to the City of South Bend, the Office of the Mayor, and the many municipal departments, community groups, and South Bend residents who generously provided us with their lived experience and acumen as we collaboratively created carbon-neutral planning.

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