Cities and “budget-based” management of the energy-water-climate nexus: Case studies in transportation policy, infrastructure systems, and urban utility risk management

Joshua B. Sperling, Anu Ramaswami

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This article reviews city case studies to inform a framework for developing urban infrastructure design standards and policy instruments that together aim to pursue energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation through city carbon budgets and water use efficiency and climate risk adaptation through city water budgets. This article also proposes combining carbon and water budgeting at the city-scale for achieving successful coupled city carbon and water budget (CCCWB) programs. Under a CCCWB program, key actors including local governments, infrastructure designers/operators, and households would be assigned a GHG emissions and water “budget” and be required by state or federal levels to keep within this budget through the use of flexibility mechanisms, incentive programs, and sanctions. Multiple incentives and cross-scale governance arrangements would be tied to energy-water systems integration, resource-efficient transportation and infrastructure development, and effective monitoring and management of energy use, emissions, climate risks to, and security of energy-water-transport-food and other critical systems. As a first step to promote strategies for CCCWB development, we systematically review approaches of and shortcomings to existing budget-based programs in the UK and US, and suggest improvements in three areas: measurement, modeling effectiveness of interventions for staying within a budget, and governance. To date, the majority of climate action or sustainability plans by cities, while mentioning climate impacts as a premise for the plan, do not address these impacts in the plan. They focus primarily on GHG mitigation while ignoring resource depletion challenges and energy-climate-water linkages, whereby water supplies can begin to limit energy production and energy shifts to mitigate climate change can limit water availability. Coupled carbon-water budget plans, programs, and policies—described in this study- may address these concerns as well as the emerging trends that will exacerbate these problems—e.g., including population growth, climatic changes, and emerging policy choices that are not coordinated. Cities and “Budget-Based” Management of the Energy-Water-Climate Nexus: Case Studies to Inform Strategy for Integrated Performance- and Incentive-Based Design and Policy Instruments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-107
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Progress and Sustainable Energy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
for modeling effectiveness of strategies to stay within the budget, and provide guidance on methodologies for adapting transport models to run GHG scenarios. • Regional: The regional MPOs manage the city carbon fund for the region while reviewing locality applications for funding; helps cities coordinate strategies through for-mal regional planning processes; and adapts the transport models for running GHG scenarios while providing the results to local city councils. • Local: The city councils based on information from regional and state governments, develop a package of local initiatives to meet the GHG reduction targets; apply for funding from regional and state governments; coordi-nate with neighboring localities with help from regional MPOs; and implement local climate action plans and strat-egies [14].


  • carbon intensity of energy
  • incentives
  • infrastructure
  • measuring transportation vehicle miles traveled
  • urban policy and governance
  • water supply

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