Here’s why cities should integrate their “siloed” programs for climate resilience, social justice and economic revitalization

With the urgent need to act on climate change getting more attention at COP26, in Washington and around the U.S., a new report from The Greenlining Institute finds that an innovative California program, Transformative Climate Communities, could be a national model for climate action.

Unlike most government programs, TCC puts communities in charge, giving them the power and resources to fight climate change and build stronger, healthier, more economically resilient communities.

This integration of community revitalization and resilience goals was advanced in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, and is a core component of the certification program for professional Revitalization & Resilience Facilitators. This free Short Course shows how resilience and revitalization efforts are usually based on the same kinds of activities, but often fail because they are pursued in silos…isolated from each other.

Focusing on low-income communities on the front lines of climate change, TCC links elements that are too often treated separately—like clean energy, carbon-free transportation and affordable housing—into unified, community-led plans designed to reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and improve quality of life.

Here’s the “before” photo of the Bradley Green Alley in Pacoima, prior to the area’s Transformative Climate Communities project. The “after” photo is shown at top of the page.

Climate change doesn’t hit everyone equally,” said Michael Tubbs, former Stockton Mayor and current special adviser to Governor Newsom.

Redlining and environmental racism left communities of color like South Stockton with the worst pollution, the least green space and the fewest resources to cope with climate disasters. But the people in our neighborhoods know what we need, and can lead us to solutions. That’s what Transformative Climate Communities does. Instead of empowering bureaucrats, it empowers frontline communities to design and implement real change, fighting climate change and building thriving, healthier neighborhoods. This is what the future of climate action must look like, both here in California and around the nation,” he continued.

Five years after the program’s creation, via legislation sponsored by The Greenlining Institute and the California Environmental Justice Alliance, Greenlining conducted a rigorous qualitative evaluation of how TCC’s components work together to deliver equitable outcomes and what improvements might be needed.

The resulting report, Fighting Redlining and Climate Change with Transformative Climate Communities, was published on November 9, 2021, along with detailed case studies of TCC projects in Oakland, Ontario, Stockton & the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

Transformative Climate Communities is a bold, new approach to climate policy that’s been needed for a long time,” said report author Emi Wang, Greenlining’s Associate Director of Capacity Building.

Redlining and disinvestment made sure that communities of color got stuck with the worst pollution and fewest resources, but TCC empowers those same communities to take control. And TCC treats communities as a whole. Instead of looking at transportation, housing and clean power separately, TCC links them and more together so they all work in harmony. It’s time to expand this model nationally and use the urgent fight against climate change to build healthier, more resilient and prosperous communities for all — not just a privileged few,” she added.

The report’s key findings include:

  • With 18 planning grants and eight implementation grants issued so far, the TCC model is working — helping communities design and implement real change based on needs they themselves identify, fighting climate change and improving their neighborhoods. “Residents know their voice is not only being heard but we’re doing something about it,” said Jasmine Silva of Community Partners, administrator of the Northeast San Fernando Valley project;
  • Even though implementation has only recently started in many places, TCC is already producing concrete results, from a new bikeshare program that’s expanding clean transportation and creating jobs in East Oakland to a formerly neglected alley now reclaimed as a community green space in Pacoima, part of the Northeast San Fernando Valley TCC effort. Projects in the works include affordable housing near transit, EV charging, solar panels for low-income households and more. Overall, these communities are on track to reducing nearly 200,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next five years, equivalent to removing nearly 43,000 cars from the road;
  • TCC represents a new model for climate action that should be expanded within California and replicated nationally. Contrary to the false narrative that climate action means a loss of jobs, TCC shows how communities can use efforts to cut CO2 emissions to create jobs and build healthier, stronger neighborhoods; and
  • Despite these great successes, challenges remain. Inconsistent and inadequate funding has greatly limited the number of projects that could be funded and made it difficult for communities to plan. Also, California should reduce administrative and financial burdens that make it difficult for under-resourced cities and counties to participate. Advocates were heartened by a funding increase approved in the recently-concluded California state budget process, but future funding is not guaranteed. The state must adequately and consistently fund the pathway from planning to implementation, and support the local ecosystems needed to support community transformation.

Photos courtesy of The Greenlining Institute.

Learn more about The Greenlining Institute.

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