Commentary: A bold new model for climate action

As climate disasters strike state after state, fossil fuel-funded members of Congress are focused on a false choice between economic prosperity and tackling climate change. Meanwhile, politicians’ rhetoric about the devastating impact of climate change on communities of color adds insult to injury.

Through a neighborhood coalition from a program called Transformative Climate Communities, 800 homes in Stockton, Calif., Above, will benefit from energy and water efficiency improvements, with local youth trained to make work. Solar energy systems will be installed at four affordable multi-family housing sites, as well as for 108 low-income single-family home owners. Terrance Emerson / via TNS

There is a better way: California has quietly come up with a new approach that should be taken nationally.

We know that because we helped make it happen.

The program is called Transformative Climate Communities. It uses climate action to build prosperous and prosperous communities, focusing on neighborhoods facing the greatest environmental and economic challenges. And, unlike most government programs, it allows communities themselves to lead.

In Stockton, California, as in many communities, the legacy of environmental racism persists. Latin American, black and Asian neighborhoods have been devastated by a cross highway that has divided communities and added to the pollution from heavy industry and the port of Stockton. The historic divestment has left the region with deteriorating infrastructure, poverty and unemployment.

This is typical, thanks to the legacy of redlining – policies that have separated communities of color and deprived them of financial investment.

Government programs to address these problems have generally been too small, too fragmented, and imposed from top to bottom on communities. Transformative Climate Communities does almost everything differently.

The program funds communities to develop neighborhood-wide climate plans based on priorities set by residents themselves. Its structure is based on deep and ongoing community leadership – with government support, not dictating. Transformative Climate Communities then provides implementation grants to make those dreams come true.

While governments typically put energy, transportation, and housing policies in their own silos, the program creates connected plans that bring these and other elements together.

For example, this could involve building affordable, energy-efficient and solar-powered housing near transit stops, upgrading and upgrading that transit system while adding improvements for bicycles. and pedestrians who help residents access these transportation stops. And it can go further by lining these cycle and pedestrian paths with trees that remove carbon from the air and reduce urban “heat island” effects.

Transformative Climate Communities also needs projects to create well-paying jobs and economic opportunities for residents, as well as an anti-displacement strategy so residents can reap the benefits without being evicted.

In Stockton, the Greenlining Institute worked with local residents, community leaders and the Mayor’s office to develop a Transformative Climate Communities app with support from the City Manager. An emerging coalition called Rise Stockton was awarded nearly $ 11 million to begin implementation.

Residents, through a process that included 25 community meetings, door-to-door, surveys and more, created a sustainable neighborhood plan. While the implementation grant was less than residents hoped, it was sufficient to fund many urgent projects.

For example, 800 homes will receive water and energy efficiency upgrades, with local youth trained to do the job. City staff and volunteers will plant 1,750 trees, and solar power systems will be installed at four affordable multi-family sites, as well as for 108 low-income single-family homeowners.

When the Greenlining Institute recently analyzed the impact of transformative climate communities, the program’s potential to change the entire climate debate became clear: it can move us forward towards our climate goals while enabling communities to build a climate. healthy and prosperous future according to their own priorities. Transformative climate communities should be replicated nationally.

We don’t have to choose between protecting our climate and building prosperity in communities too often overlooked by government. We know how to do both.

If we are serious about building back better, Transformative Climate Communities has shown us how. Congress should take notes.

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