A Community-Led Vision For Transformative Climate Communities

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Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) is a groundbreaking new program that will develop comprehensive, cross-cutting, and transformative climate investments at a neighborhood scale to achieve multiple greenhouse gas, public health and economic benefits in our state’s most vulnerable communities.

To maintain California’s global climate leadership, we must ensure that the communities most impacted by multiple sources of pollution can directly benefit from investments to address climate change, environmental health issues, and barriers to equitable economic development.

Community-based organizations are leading the way by crafting sustainability plans that address long-standing environmental health and justice challenges, and by catalyzing equitable economic development at the neighborhood level. These plans draw from deep resident engagement and advance solutions led by the people most impacted, in partnership with other important stakeholders.

The TCC program can support the development and implementation of such plans. It can foster an integrated, collaborative approach to reducing climate change while comprehensively addressing a legacy of environmental pollution and disinvestment in the most highly impacted communities.

Background On Transformative Climate Communities Program

AB p-1-TCCReport20162722 (2016) authored by Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke and Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula created the Transformative Climate Communities program to be administered by the Strategic Growth Council (SGC). The Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) program will award large grants to develop and implement neighborhood-level climate sustainability plans. CEJA was a proud co-sponsor of AB 2722 along with the Greenlining Institute.

Eligible entities can apply for a competitive grant to fund a range of projects that have climate, public health, economic and pollution reduction benefits. Eligible entities include community-based organizations, local agencies, and community development institutions, among others. Any plan must include multi-stakeholder collaborations and strategies for community engagement. All investments must be located within disadvantaged communities as defined by the California EPA’s CalEnviroScreen tool. The program received an initial, one-time allocation of funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) of $140 million in 2016, to be awarded in 2017. The first year of grants will focus on the most disadvantaged communities, specifically the City of Fresno, the City of Los Angeles and a third region. Future funding for the program will depend on additional budget allocations.

The Need: An Environmental And Climate Justice Crisis In California

Low-incop-2a-TCCReport2016me communities and communities of color are on the frontlines of pollution and climate change in California. The communities where CEJA?s members and partners work face a lack of basic infrastructure to meet their community needs, industrial facilities with multiple emissions, contaminated drinking water, close proximity to freeways and major transportation corridors, and many other sources of pollution. These exposures are compounded by a lack of positive amenities such as open space and public transit, and socioeconomic stressors such as high unemployment and poverty. These cumulative impacts lead to negative health outcomes such as higher rates of asthma, birth defects, and cancer, as well as a host of other social and economic burdens.

According to a California Environmental Protection Agency analysis, almost 7.5 million people or roughly 20% of the state’s total population lives in areas that are burdened with high concentrations of pollution and socioeconomic vulnerabilities. These same  communities are the most vulnerable to climate change and have the fewest resources to adapt to changing conditions.

Green Zones And Transformative Climate Communities: A Shared Vision

CEJA’s work on the Transformative Climate Communities program grows out of our Green Zones Initiative. Green Zones are a place-based strategy that use community-led solutions to transform areas overburdened by pollution into healthy and thriving neighborhoods. Green Zones predominantly consist of low-income communities and communities of color where residents are organizing to reduce industrial pollution and cultivate new, coordinated opportunities to implement community-based solutions. While each Green Zone reflects the unique needs, priorities, and environmental justice issues of each community, all share common roots. They have all developed out of decades of organizing by groups working directly in low-income communities and communities of color to address the over-concentration of polluting facilities and the cumulative impacts of toxic emissions in their area. All Green Zones are comprehensive, collaborative, community-led, and solution-oriented.

We recognized early in our Green Zones work that in order for these place-based models to be  successful, communities need to have the power to guide development and investments. Green Zones require closely coordinated and leveraged public spending targeted to our most overburdened  communities, with deep resident engagement to direct investment.

The Transformative Climate Communities program is this vision come to life. The TCC program can catalyze neighborhood-level shifts away from pollution-based economies and create local economic opportunities that support the well being of families, empower communities, clean the environment, and prevent further climate change. For such a transition to be successful, community leaders must have the opportunity to identify and lead the solutions. The significant public investments being made through the TCC program must not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they must also remedy the already-existing environmental health and justice disparities. Through its community-level planning and investments, the TCC program can help to achieve a just transition away from inequitable and polluting development patterns that have plagued so many communities. It can move us toward a new future that weaves together environmental and climate sustainability, economic opportunities, and strengthened local democracies.

Key Principles For The Transformative Climate Communities Program

The following principles are critical to ensuring the long-term success of the TCC program:

1. Direct And Extensive Community Engagement
Community leadership and resident partnerships should be at the heart of all plan development and implementation. Plans must include clear criteria and strategies for inclusive and meaningful community engagement to ensure that local residents and community-based organizations are involved and have a voice in the decisions that are transforming their neighborhoods.

2. Equity For Most Impacted Residents
The TCC program must uplift communities on the frontlines of climate change,pollution and poverty in California. TCC must address long-standing environmental health and justice inequities,tackle the crisis of climate change, and ensure benefits to reach the most vulnerable residents in plan areas.

3. Multiple, Integrated Benefits
The TCC program breaks out of the siloed approach to funding by supporting integrated projects that can accomplish multiple goals to achieve truly transformative impacts. It maximizes our investments,not only by addressing the urgent need to stop climate change, but also by creating additional environmental benefits and local economic opportunities.

4. Showcase Equitable, Sustainable Land Use Planning
In order to meet the challenge of climate change,our patterns of urban and rural development must fundamentally shift.TCC investments can demonstrate the potential for new land use planning strategies that are more resilient,equitable and healthy. In doing so,it can serve as a model throughout the state and the country.

6. Catalytic, Leveraged Investments
The TCC program Is Intended to leverage one source of investment- the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund -to secure increased federal,state,and private funding. No one funding source can meet all of the needs of a particular community,and by making these large-scale,multi-year investments we can start to bring in additional public and private resources to assist in the ongoing development and long-term sustainability of these plans.

7. Investment Without Displacement
Without effective anti-displacement policies in place, large-scale investments could push out local residents and small businesses as a result of increased property values.TCC must include strategies to prevent displacement and develop a methodology to track local resident and small business changes over time.

8. Creating A Pipeline Of Communities
Many of the communities that struggle with the highest environmental burdens have also faced chronic disinvestment in their neighborhoods for many years.While they have great potential to successfully demonstrate the TCC model,they need planning support.The TCC program should help prepare communities for full investments through extensive Technical Assistance and Planning Grants.