The program is in its infancy. It has set no targets, and its survival is questionable: After spending $1 million on start-up and an initial media campaign, the department saw its advertising budget slashed as California worked its way out of a budget hole.
"Our mandate is somewhat limited," Oldfield acknowledged. "We can't impact a lot of things directly."
"But we're hoping that by targeting recycling and other things, we can impact indirectly some bigger things."
And this is where an international agreement could truly help, said Morgan, WRI's climate director.
"Local initiatives working very specifically and practically on engaging unions and companies and policy makers in making those shifts are absolutely essential," she said during a telephone interview from the Bonn climate talks earlier this summer.
"You also need to have a national policy. It makes the local job easier - 'If you go for renewables, then you get these tax incentives.' "
"And on the international level, you get a level of ambition that the country is going to work on this with the rest of the world," she added.
"It's really about making people see the interdependencies that exist."
Plenty of work
Local leaders certainly don't mean global efforts should be underestimated.
Back in Boulder, city leaders already are looking for goals beyond 2012, when Kyoto expires. Its ability to establish a post-Kyoto target, said Jonathan Koehn, the city's environmental affairs manager, will depend "most certainly" on the city's ability to decarbonize the energy supply.
And that will require an international push.
"We can meet our current target with energy efficiency (measures) and Boulder residents making differences in their everyday lives," he said. "But to move beyond that we have to have move on a different playing field.
"It doesn't mean we stop the local efforts," Koehn added. But no agreement in Copenhagen would prolong the onset of "meaningful and widespread" changes in the near future.
Of course, that near future holds plenty of work - and change - for local governments - with or without a framework.
"The best we can expect from Copenhagen is targets," Pomerance said. "It doesn't solve problems. It just forces you to start figuring out how to deal with them."
"The high-level targets need to be connected to plans on the ground," he added.
"What's going to happen is Congress puts in cap-and-trade, and they're going to crank (carbon limits) down by 2050 - or hopefully sooner - and issue zero permits to coal plants. And the utilities will say, 'Well, what's step two?' "
"That's where the issue is going to show up. What it's going to eventually come down is plan," Pomerance said. "And what it's ultimately going to come down to is what are cities going to do, what are counties going to do, what are states going to do."
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.