Resilient Lincoln

Photograph of schoolhouse on prairie

Building a Climate-Smart Future


Resilient Lincoln is the name of Mayor Gaylor Baird’s initiative that identifies local climate vulnerabilities and deploys strategies to build our community’s capacity to mitigate and overcome associated risks. As a result of Resilient Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan(PDF, 15MB), we know that flooding, drought, extreme heat, and public health problems are some of the most significant climate-related risks we face in the coming decades. Resilient Lincoln recognizes that embedded in these risks lie opportunities — opportunities to innovate and create new jobs and technologies as we strengthen our infrastructure, reduce our carbon footprint, and protect our quality of life.

At the heart of the Resilient Lincoln initiative is an ambitious goal: in collaboration with our publicly owned Lincoln Electric System, we have committed to a goal of an eighty percent net reduction in Lincoln’s greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. This goal is instrumental in aligning the direction of municipal government going forward, and we will pay particular attention to how we safeguard our water supply and proactively protect Lincoln’s property and people from climate hazards. Yet the goal also represents a strategic vision for our entire community. Our energy providers, business owners, universities, institutions, and residents all have an important role to play in building a stronger, more resilient, just, and climate-smart future for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren.

Climate and Emissions

The City of Lincoln understands the need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to slow the pace of climate change and protect Lincoln residents’ way of life. The changes in climate will result in several impacts to life in Lincoln. We will experience warmer, drier summers, wetter springs, more extreme rain events, more frequent drought, more frequent and intense floods, potential economic instability from impacts to the state’s agricultural sector, and a range of climate-related health impacts, including heat-related illnesses, respiratory illnesses, and increased insect-borne diseases.

The ways in which Lincoln’s future climate is expected to change by 2050 are significant.

  • The mean average temperature in Lincoln is projected to increase from 52°F (1990 average) to 57°F (2050 average).
  • Lincoln will see a 340% increase in the number of days where the air temperature and relative humidity will yield a heat index over 100°F. Of those, 26 days will be even hotter - they’ll have a heat index over 105°F.
  • Winter and spring precipitation totals will be 10-16% higher than current conditions, while summer precipitation will decrease by 4%.
  • Heavy precipitation days in Nebraska are projected to increase 15% to 35% by 2050. Furthermore, multi-day extreme precipitation events will increase in severity.
Chart of projected 2021 to 2050 normal temperatures for Lincoln Airport


Most greenhouse gases—including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—are associated with the production and burning of fossil fuels, which create energy for electricity generation, transportation, heating and manufacturing. Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan sets a goal to reduce the community’s emissions 80% by 2050, relative to 2011 levels.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has been conducting an annual inventory of Lincoln’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. The breakdown of emissions by source in 2020 is illustrated in the chart below.

2020 Lincoln GHG emissions by source (mt CO2e)

Lincoln’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined 27% since 2011. The graph below shows the emissions trajectory.

Chart of net greenhouse gas emissions in Lincoln


Lincoln’s electricity is delivered by Lincoln Electric System (LES), a municipal public power district. LES produces and purchases its electricity from numerous generation sources, including coal, wind, hydropower, oil and natural gas, landfill gas, and solar. Many of those sources are located in Nebraska, but some are located in Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Very few combustion plants are located in and around Lincoln, which is beneficial for the city’s overall air quality.

Over the last decade-plus, LES’ renewable footprint has grown significantly. LES’ nameplate resource portfolio — the full capacity of their generation fleet — is diversified with renewable sources (hydro, solar, wind and landfill gas) accounting for 34% of the power they can generate, while natural gas accounts for 35% and coal 31%.

Chart of LES energy sources

In 2020, LES adopted a goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. Read more about the decarbonization goal. LES promotes sustainability through programs like incentivized rates for customer-owned solar and virtual net metering that allows customers to buy “virtual” panels at the local community solar facility, and by offering multiple energy-efficiency and demand reduction incentives and opportunities. Find out more about how you can participate in the Sustainable Energy Program.

By making key investments in wind, solar and battery technologies, LES has already reduced the emissions from their generation portfolio 35% since 2010.

Chart of LES portfolio CO2 emissions

The City of Lincoln operates an award-winning biogas capture system at its Theresa Street wastewater facility that captures methane from the wastewater treatment process and converts it into vehicle fuel in the form of renewable natural gas (RNG). The system produces 1,000 MMbtus (one million British thermal units) of energy per year to create vehicle fuel that reduces emissions up to 75 percent compared to gasoline or diesel vehicles.


The City of Lincoln is working to achieve the goal of transitioning its fleet vehicles to 100% electric or alternatively fueled by 2040. Already, the City’s StarTran bus fleet includes 10 fully electric buses, and the light fleet is 26% electric, hybrid, or alternatively fueled.

The transportation sector accounts for 30% of Lincoln’s greenhouse gas emissions. Every Lincoln resident, business and organization can play a role in reducing emissions from this sector. The Climate Action Plan describes how the City of Lincoln and residents can positively contribute to a healthier transportation system by reducing reliance on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and increasing the efficiency of low-carbon transportation systems. Examples include switching to hybrid or electric vehicles, commuting by bike, taking public transportation, carpooling, and traveling by scooter or on foot – many of which have health benefits too.

Lincoln is proud to have an extensive bike trail network. Each year about a million “treks” happen on Lincoln’s trails. With over 134 miles of hard surface and crushed rock trails, you can get just about anywhere you want to go using both on- and off-street routes.

In July 2023, an EV Readiness Plan was released by the Climate-Smart Collaborative, a group that includes the City, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln Electric System, and Lancaster County. The plan lays the foundation for the community’s continued transition to electric and alternatively fueled vehicles.

Economic Development

A resilient city is one that plans and then develops its capacity to bounce back successfully from natural disasters while maintaining its essential characteristics and functions. By looking carefully at the social as well as the climate dimensions of the future, the community can shape its future economy, bringing multiple benefits to the city.

Strategies for climate-smart economic growth include encouraging and incentivizing the development of sustainable energy research, development, and manufacturing (including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, battery storage and others); supporting entrepreneurship in the food, agriculture, water, and transportation sectors; providing workforce development training programs in energy efficiency and green building; and evaluating the environmental impact of new development.

By embracing a vision of a climate-smart and equitable economy, Lincoln can substantially increase its resilience to the changing climate and ensure that it remains a thriving place to live, work and play for decades to come.

Climate Resilience

As the impacts of climate change become more serious, cities around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the need to anticipate and prepare for these events. Adaptation is smart government, as it ensures that taxpayer dollars are effective and long-lasting even as the climate continues to change. 

The City of Lincoln, in partnership with federal, state, and regional entities, is taking steps to protect residents from some of most pertinent climate risks for Lincoln, including flooding, drought, and heat-related illnesses.  

Find out about Lincoln’s floodplain and how to protect your household from the effects of flooding. Learn about the Salt Creek Resiliency Study and how future stream flows may affect this primary receiving stream in Lancaster County. 

In 2023, the Flood and Water Quality Protection Manual was updated to provide enhanced protections for Lincoln residents and businesses. 

In 2023, a plan was adopted to secure a second source of water for the Lincoln community. Known as Water 2.0, this project will maintain Lincoln’s current water supply and secure a second water source for the community’s future generations. 

Since Lincoln is located in an area that has periodic droughts, Lincoln residents are asked to practice water conservation, especially during the hot summer months. 

Local Food

A Local Food System Plan for the Lincoln community was developed in 2023. This plan aims to Increase and ensure access to healthy food, invest in the local food and farm community, increase local food production, promote food production methods that protect the environment, and reduce food waste. 

To find out more about how you can start your own garden, see the resources from Community Crops. To learn more about Nebraska’s farm fresh foods, see the Buy Fresh Buy Local resources from the University of Nebraska. 

Natural Climate Solutions

Plants, trees, and prairie grasses naturally sequester carbon and thus are important components of any greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy. Planting along waterways helps to slow down flood waters, and shade from trees provides critical shade on the hottest days. By protecting our natural resources, we also protect ourselves from the effects of climate change. 

Lincoln’s parks and greenways already have a significant number of native plantings. Planting native species is important because local species, such as birds, have co-evolved with local plants for survival. Expanding native plantings in the city’s greenspaces will continue to help increase biodiversity and survival of insect, pollinator, plant, and bird species. Learn how you can put natural climate solutions to work in sustainable landscapes

The Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch is a tallgrass prairie passage and trail that will build on our nationally recognized trail and greenway system and will link two of Lincoln and Lancaster County’s premier environmental resource and education centers.  

The City’s work in natural climate solutions extends to innovative technologies too. The Lincoln Biochar Initiative will use urban wood waste as a feedstock to produce biochar, a carbon-rich soil amendment that increases plant yields, helps reduce runoff, enhances soil health, and improves composting. 


Proper waste management ensures the protection of our natural resources such as water, land, and air. Reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills also has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. By following the waste management hierarchy of reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting, and moving towards a more circular economy, we as individuals and as a city help keep our people and our environment healthy and resilient. 

Find out more about how you can divert waste from the landfill at your home or business by recycling. Wondering how to handle a specific type of waste? Use the What Bin Does it Go In? tool to get your questions answered. 

For more detailed information about Lincoln’s long-term goals regarding solid waste management, see the Solid Waste Management Plan

Community Engagement

Each person, business, organization and institution has a role to play in making the transition to a climate-smart future and ensuring Lincoln’s quality of life. For this reason, the City is making plans to enhance its community engagement efforts. The best plans will always be those that have benefitted from the creativity and diversity of resident input. 

Achieving the goal of reducing emissions across the city 80% by 2050 will take everyone working together. Key opportunities exist for residents to switch to energy-efficient appliances, drive electric vehicles, buy local food, plant native plants, conserve water, use active transportation modes to commute, and so much more. In the coming months and years, the city will engage with residents in a variety of ways to make sure that all Lincoln residents are co-creating a climate-smart future.