Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Studies


John Petersen
Rumi Shammin

Committee Member(s)

Harlan Wilson, Chair


Oberlin, ICLEI, Greenhouse gas inventory, Emissions, Climate change, Climate action, Local government, Sustainability, Carbon, Energy


The City of Oberlin joined the International Council for Leadership in Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in 2007, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through ICLEI's five-milestone process. As the first official step in this process, I conducted greenhouse gas inventories for the years 2001 and 2007 for community-wide and municipal operations emissions. I found that the community emitted 174,400 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007, more than half of which was associated with the consumption of coal-intensive electricity. This amounts to 20.9 tons CO2e per resident annually. Of the community's overall emissions, the commercial sector, including all Oberlin College properties, was responsible for approximately 65%, with the College contributing about 20%. The residential and transportation sectors were each responsible for about 15%. Quantifying emissions in this manner is crucial to evaluating the effect of various emissions reductions measures and subsequent climate action strategy. Oberlin's next step is to institutionalize climate action within the municipal and community structure in order to sustain a formal effort to reduce emissions. Based on interviews I conducted with officials from eight ICLEI cities, there appear to be a variety of options for Oberlin to consider. Other cities have assigned the responsibility of completing the ICLEI milestones to one or more of four main entities: a City Sustainability Coordinator or small group of City employees, an existing City committee (e.g. a Recycling Committee), a newly established "Energy Task Force" of local businesspeople, City employees, experts, and other community members, and/or a nonprofit organization closely partnered with the municipal government. Oberlin should consider these and other strategies for establishing a framework for continued progress through the ICLEI process. If successful at reducing emissions over the next several years, the community of Oberlin could emerge as a bona fide leader in addressing the generation-defining challenge of climate change.