Today, local-government leaders from the United States and China are gathering in Los Angeles to talk about climate action – underscoring the important role community-driven steps serve in moving toward global climate progress. This first session of the U.S.-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit advances implementation of each country’s post-2020 national climate targets, announced by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping in the historic November 2014 Joint Announcement.
Of course, the specific community-driven steps that make sense in one place do not always make sense in another place. Recognizing that no two communities are the same, the Obama Administration has taken a targeted approach to its investments that values each community’s unique needs and assets. As OMB Director Donovan recently noted, “Any plans that we want to make for improving communities across the country need to be hatched in partnership with those communities – by the people who live in them, work in them, and stand to benefit from them.”
As we spur and support community-driven climate action domestically, the Obama Administration is starting where it makes the most sense: We’re meeting communities where they are. It’s why, last month, we launched the first-ever Resilience AmeriCorps, providing extra capacity to vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. And it’s why today, we’re announcing additional resources to support local climate action.
First, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing that it will provide $800,000 in technical assistance to support communities that are pushing the frontiers of climate action—our domestic Climate Action Champions. For instance, one recipient, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe, will use the technical assistance to help inform energy efficiency measures, including an HVAC mechanical system redesign; an energy management system; and lighting retrofits—leading to deep energy savings for three Tribal buildings. And in San Francisco, the city will develop a methodology for open City Datasets to provide real-time information to support energy efficient behavior change in the commercial building sector.
Second, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing $7.9 million in High Energy Cost Grants for communities where a shortage of basic infrastructure leaves them especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These resources will help these communities lower crippling power costs and become more climate resilient. Take the small village of Miloli’I for example, one of just a few traditional fishing villages in Hawaii. The village has no utility-provided electricity, no potable water, and pays high rates to truck in fuel for gas generators, fuel for propane cooking, and refrigeration and water for drinking. The new USDA funding will deliver solar power for electricity, refrigeration and cooking, and a solar distillation kit to procure safe and clean drinking water.
Community-driven leadership isn’t just a smart tool for climate action. It is foundational. Last month, we released a snapshot view of the Obama Administration’s community-based initiatives – showing the breadth of the Administration’s work in partnering to advance community solutions. The map combines datasets from initiatives – many involving climate – across more than 15 Federal agencies. All told, it shows hundreds of communities working hand-in-hand with the Federal government through a localized, more customized approach.
One thing the map shows loud and clear: When it comes to community-driven action, the opportunities for progress are boundless. The convening in Los Angeles – as well as today’s announcements from DOE and USDA – show how we’re seizing those opportunities to act on climate. Even though the challenge of climate change is global, solutions that start at the community-level will help us act with the urgency and ambition the moment demands.