money burning
Tucson Sets $326 Million Plan To Address ‘Climate Emergency,’ Costs Remain Open-Ended

March 11, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

The city of Tucson has finalized its plan to solve its “climate emergency” declared in 2020, estimated at the low end to cost hundreds of millions. The plan could cost the city around $326 million, but noted that these costs were estimates. The city projected in its cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that the net present value created by its planning would be around $7.9 billion. 

Included in the value added were nonmonetary items translated to have monetary value, such as quality of life. The city admitted that these estimated costs weren’t probable, but a rough estimate.

“When planning for climate mitigation and adaptation policies and projects, it is essential to consider, not only the upfront cost of a project or policy, but what benefits will society as a whole see from implementing these projects or policies,” stated the city.

CBAs are controversial for their unreliability. Oxford University declared in a 2020 report and Cambridge University declared in a 2021 report that CBAs tend to be inaccurate and biased. 

The city council approved the 155-page plan to tackle climate change — or, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), titled “Tucson Resilient Together” — during Tuesday’s meeting. In a letter accompanying the CAAP, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero declared that the plan takes immediate, equity-centered action. The CAAP formed solutions based on four types of equity: procedural, meaning certain voices get elevated above others; distributional, meaning certain individuals or groups get more distribution of benefits or burdens than others; structural, meaning disparate treatment based on existence within perceived power structures or systems of privilege; and transgenerational, meaning greater burdens for current generations to ease burdens of future generations.

“Climate change is an existential threat, and our public health, economy, and way of life are on the line,” said Romero.


The plan outlines goals of carbon neutrality across city operations by 2030 and community-wide by 2045.

AZ Free News has outlined each action item within this plan, along with its potential cost range. The plan noted that the most expensive projects ranged over $1 million in cost, but didn’t disclose how high those costs could reach. 

  • Establish a Climate Action Team (CAT) to implement CAAP — up to $100,000
  • Partnering with nongovernmental entities to make decisions about city purchases, programming, training, investments, etc. — up to $100,000
  • Offer climate change educational resources to the community — up to $100,000
  • Monitor and inventory GHG emissions — up to $100,000
  • Decarbonize city-owned and operated buildings and facilities — anywhere over $1 million
  • Electrify and decarbonize all existing and new residential and commercial buildings — anywhere from $100,000 to anywhere over $1 million
  • Move to renewables-based electricity in the city and community — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Install and promote distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar panels — $500,000 to anywhere over $1 million
  • Pursue renewable energy resources like geothermal heating and cooling, methane generated from decomposing waste, etc. — anywhere over $1 million
  • Develop more sidewalks, bike lanes and paths, seating, and shading infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Develop more public transit options and infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Create a “15-minute city,” essentially restructuring the community to enable only walking, biking, and public transit, while ridding the city of cars — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Establish more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and building codes — anywhere over $1 million
  • Make public agency fleets into zero-emission vehicles — anywhere over $1 million
  • Establish financial incentives and infrastructures for city employees to not use cars — up to $100,000
  • Hold citizens to a “Zero Waste Plan” to empty landfills — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Create a community-wide organic waste collection and treatment program — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Establish a sustainable procurement policy for city operations — up to $100,000
  • Divert waste from landfills — $100,000 to $500,000
  • Expand green infrastructure programs, regulations, and requirements – up to $100,000
  • Establish “resilience hubs” for climate-related emergencies — anywhere from no cost to over $1 million
  • Establish urban heat mitigation infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Establish more “green” spaces, like planting more trees — $100,000 to $1 million
  • Restructure community relations to arrange a new emergency response and resource-sharing system — up to $100,000

The CAAP was developed in five different study sessions over the past year, with input from over 5,000 community members. A draft version of the CAAP came out in January. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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