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Recognizing American Communities as Climate Action Champions

The Obama administration launches the first round of the Climate Action Champions Competition, to recognize and support the path-breaking steps that local and tribal governments are already taking to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

From more frequent and extreme storms to higher average temperatures and rising seas, Americans today are experiencing first-hand what climate change will mean for their communities and their children. Taking steps today to cut carbon pollution and build resilience is essential to avert far more severe climate impacts in the future. As a recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers warns, postponing action on climate change could increase costs to the American economy by hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Local communities are on the front lines of the climate challenge — and are among the most ambitious in searching for solutions. From deploying more clean energy and setting energy efficiency goals to building more green infrastructure and revising building codes, many cities, towns, and tribal communities have emerged as leaders in the fight against climate change. 

Today, the Obama administration is launching the first round of the Climate Action Champions Competition, to recognize and support the path-breaking steps that local and tribal governments are already taking to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. This new competition, administered by the Department of Energy, will identify 10-15 communities across the country that have proven themselves to be climate leaders by pursuing ambitious climate action on both tracks — reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.

In addition to earning the Climate Action Champions designation, the selected communities will benefit from facilitated peer-to-peer learning and mentorship and targeted support and technical assistance from a range of federal programs. They will also become part of a broader network of efforts to address and prepare for climate change. The Climate Action Champions Competition builds on the momentum of ongoing place-based initiatives, such as the multi-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities and independent efforts such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities.

Depending on the needs of the communities selected as Champions, competition winners may receive tailored climate data and tools; technical assistance to facilitate climate-smart community planning; access to extreme-weather preparedness exercises run by the Federal Emergency Management Administration; and assistance in accelerating solar energy deployment through DOE, among other benefits. All Champion communities will also be assigned a coordinator to help identify financial and technical assistance opportunities for their preferred climate strategies.

The Climate Action Champions Competition will bolster the efforts of leading communities so that together we can define the frontier of ambitious climate action and identify possible gaps in our current policies and technological solutions. The winners will be recognized for a broad range of efforts to cut carbon pollution or strengthen climate resilience, but the competition will focus in particular on actions that further both of these goals. For instance, installing rooftop solar panels on hospitals can both reduce emissions and function as a backup power source during blackouts. By emphasizing dual-purpose investments, this competition will encourage communities to think more strategically and comprehensively after how to best leverage investments in climate change.

While this first round of the Competition seeks to select a diverse set of communities that are already leaders in addressing and preparing for climate change, the next round will look for communities that have demonstrated substantial commitment and motivation to take on the climate challenge, but may have lacked sufficient resources to make ambitious investments. The pioneering Champions will mentor and share lessons learned with the communities selected in the second round, helping them to leapfrog over some common implementation challenges and creating a model for future Champions to follow.

“We have to raise our collective ambition,” President Obama told world leaders at the U.N. Climate Summit last week, “each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.” Through the Climate Action Champions Competition, the Obama administration will help forward-looking local and tribal communities do just that.

Find out more about the selection criteria and apply to be a Climate Action Champion here. (see "DE-FOA-0001189: Climate Action Champions: Request for Applications”)

Read the White House fact sheet on the Climate Action Champions Competition here.