Capital Region Climate News & Resources: May 16, 2019

Collaborative Update




Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life
Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, scientists have warned in the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken. From coral reefs flickering out beneath the oceans to rainforests desiccating into savannahs, nature is being destroyed at a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10m years, according to the UN global assessment report. The biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction – all largely as a result of human actions. The knock-on impacts on humankind are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action. The report shows a planet in which the human footprint is so large it leaves little space for anything else. (Guardian, Nature) Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace


Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’
The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles, with data suggesting they could vanish within a century. Insects are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients. Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon.”  Intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides, but urbanization and climate change are also significant factors. (Guardian) Photo: Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld


Loss of biodiversity is just as catastrophic as climate change
The world needs to recognise that loss of biodiversity and human-induced climate change are not only environmental issues, but development, economic, social, security, equity and moral issues as well. As policymakers around the world grapple with the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, it is essential that they understand the linkages between the two so that their decisions and actions address both. (Guardian) Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images


In vicious cycle, snowmelt fuels wildfire and wildfires melt snow
A faster snowmelt and a drier summer landscape can worsen the fire season, but the reverse may also be true. A new study finds that snow starts to melt about five days earlier in the season after a fire has occurred, and earlier melting may persist for at least a decade after a fire has occurred. Wildfires tend to clear out the forest canopy, leaving more space for sunlight to warm up the snow. They also leave behind burned leaves and branches, which drop bits of dark ash and char on to the bright, reflective snow surface, causing it to absorb more solar energy. Altogether, the researchers estimate that about 11% of all Western forests in the snow zone are absorbing more solar energy and melting earlier as a result of wildfires. (Scientific American)


California utilities announce preparedness campaign around public safety power shutoffs
California’s three largest energy companies announced a coordinated wildfire safety and awareness campaign to prepare Californians for the threat of extreme weather and power outages during times of increased wildfire danger. The statewide Power of Being Prepared campaign includes radio ads, preparedness resources and a new website, While Public Safety Power Shutoffs are more likely to occur in high fire-risk areas, all Californians could be impacted by emergency events and need to be prepared with a plan and an emergency kit. Energy companies will aim to send early warning notifications via phone calls, text alerts, emails and other means before turning off power. (AP)


California may go dark this summer, and most aren’t ready
A plan by California’s biggest utility to cut power on high-wind days during the wildfire season could plunge millions of residents into darkness. And most aren’t ready. The utility aims to give at least two days warning and has embarked on a public awareness campaign and is working to identify vulnerable residents. State regulators, meanwhile, have said they’re developing shutoff notification guidelines for PG&E and all of the state’s utilities, requiring them to coordinate with state and local agencies. They want PG&E to use shutoffs as a last resort. (Bloomberg) Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images


What it’s like to be caught in a deadly wildfire
Here are three articles that capture lived experiences of the 2018 California Wildfires. These stories, scenes, and images are likely to stay in a reader’s mind longer than articles intended primarily to inform, which can significantly expand our understanding of what is at stake for individual people and their communities.  Each creates a vivid picture of what it was actually like for the people who were caught (or chose to remain) inside a deadly fire. You won’t forget the tales they tell.  (Yale Climate Connections) Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Crystal Housman / Flikr


Sacramento launches curbside fast-charging
With wires running along almost every street in America, putting EV chargers along the curb would seem a natural enough place. While several other countries such as Britain have begun efforts to put charging stations on light poles, in America, chargers have been sited almost exclusively in parking lots and garages. Now EVgo, a network of mainly DC fast chargers, has set up the first public fast chargers along the street in Sacramento. The new installation, on 6th Street alongside Southside park near I-80 and I-5, includes three 50-kilowatt DC fast chargers and three new 150-kw DC fast chargers that can provide up to 150 miles of range in less than 30 minutes. (Link)


Los Angeles launched its own Green New Deal
Los Angeles just launched its own Green New Deal, setting up the second-largest city in the country to have a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The city’s Green New Deal would require all new city-owned buildings and major renovations to be “all-electric,” effective immediately. The initiative includes recycling 100 percent of its wastewater by 2035 and building a zero-carbon electricity grid with the goal of reaching an 80 percent renewable energy supply by 2036. The plan also hopes to phase out Styrofoam and plant 90,000 trees by 2021. By 2050, the city hopes to create 400,000 green jobs, have every building become emissions-free and halt sending trash to landfills. By then, the city’s plan is expected to save more than 1,600 lives, 660 trips to the hospital, and $16 billion in avoided health care expenses every year. (Grist) Photo: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images


Can New York make buildings super-efficient, fast?
New York City passed the most aggressive climate bill in the nation in April, and the city got it done in a truly New York way. The Climate Mobilization Act introduces new regulations to address the energy performance of buildings. By 2030, New York buildings will need to collectively cut carbon emissions by 40 percent. For landlords and building owners, this is an enormous lift. That’s by design. The fact that it’s sweeping in its scope is why it stands a chance of succeeding. The idea is to build a durable industry in energy retrofitting, one that benefits everyone involved—and by doing so, establishing a model for other cities around the world. (CityLab)

Tools & Resources


Banking on Climate Change: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019
For the first time, this report adds up lending and underwriting from 33 global banks to the fossil fuel industry as a whole. The findings are stark: these Canadian, Chinese, European, Japanese, and U.S. banks have financed fossil fuels with $1.9 trillion since the Paris Agreement was adopted (2016-2018) with financing on the rise each year. (RAN)


Blackrock: Getting physical – assessing climate risks
Blackrock offers a new set of tools for assessing climate risks to investment portfolios, focusing on three sectors with long-dated assets that can be located with precision: U.S. municipal bonds, commercial mortgage-backed securities, and electric utilities. The findings show that extreme weather events pose growing risks for the creditworthiness of state and local issuers in the $3.8 trillion U.S. municipal bond market. Blackrock translates physical climate changes into implications for local GDP — and show a rising share of muni bond issuance over time will likely come from regions facing economic losses from climate change. They also assess the exposure to climate risk of 269 publicly listed U.S. utilities based on the physical location of their plants, property and equipment. Conclusion: The risks are underpriced. (Blackrock)

Upcoming Opportunities


Receive CivicSpark support for your climate and resilience projects
CivicSpark is a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program dedicated to building capacity for local agencies to address community resilience to environmental and socioeconomic challenges such as climate change, water resource management, affordable housing, and mobility. CivicSpark Fellows are AmeriCorp Members that serve at public agencies for 11 months, supporting resiliency-focused research, planning, and implementation projects such as climate action planning, climate risk assessments, waste reduction, stormwater resource planning, housing equity programs, shared mobility, and more. Applications will be accepted in waves. (CivicSpark)


Launch your social purpose career with CivicSpark!
CivicSpark, a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program, is currently recruiting 90 Fellows who are interested in serving with local governments in California to address a broad range of resiliency issues. Fellows implement local projects on topics including sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, climate action planning, water conservation, drought response, affordable housing, and rural-broadband. Fellows gain exceptional career experience and training to become future leaders in California’s response to emerging environmental and social equity challenges. CivicSpark is looking for upcoming/recent college graduates who want to gain real-world experience, launch a social purpose career, and make a lasting impact! Learn more about CivicSpark by attending a Fellow Recruitment Webinar. (Link)


California For All – Emergency Preparedness Grants
Nine grants are available for the California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign to deploy a network of volunteers and transform how Californians get ready for the next disaster. The joint campaign between California Volunteers and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) invests $50 million directly into the community to bolster local resiliency and connect one million diverse and vulnerable Californians to culturally and linguistically competent support. (Apply here)


Department of Conservation: Grants for land trusts and local and regional planning
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has released for public comment the draft Proposition 68 Working Lands and Riparian Corridors Program Guidelines and the first two solicitations. The land trust capacity and project development grant solicitation will build land trust and other agricultural non-profit capacity for agricultural land conservation activities. The local and regional planning grants will support the integration of natural and working lands, specifically agricultural lands, into local and regional planning documents.  Grant applications are due July 31. Comments on the draft guidelines and solicitations are due to on Monday, May 20. DOC will also be hosting a workshop  on Thursday, May 16, from 10am to 12pm. (DOC)


Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant
The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program is a Federally-funded grant program that provides local and rural fire departments up to $20,000 to assist with minor firefighting, training, communications and safety equipment for their volunteer firefighters. The VFA Program is not intended for major equipment (fire engines, vehicles, etc.) or capital repairs. There is a 50/50 match requirement. Deadline: May 21, 2019. (CalFire)


Public Comments on Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance Grant Program
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking public comment on the draft Request for Proposals and application materials developed for the 2019 Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance Grant Program. AB 2377 (Irwin, 2018) requires the CDFA to establish a technical assistance grant program to provide funds to technical assistance providers to assist the applicants of the Alternative Manure Management Program, the Healthy Soils Program, and the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program. Comments must be sent to Deadline Friday, May 24 at 5pm. (CDFA)


Recreation Economy for Rural Communities Planning Assistance Grant
This new planning assistance program will help communities develop strategies and an action plan to revitalize their Main Streets through outdoor recreation. By conserving forests and other natural lands and making them available for outdoor recreation, small towns can boost air and water quality, focus development downtown, create jobs, and offer new opportunities for people to connect with the natural world. Through this grant, a planning team will help communities bring together residents and other stakeholders to decide on strategies and an action plan to grow the local outdoor recreation economy. Participants will work together to identify a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize the locally set goals. Deadline: May 31, 2019, 11.50pm ET. (EPA)


2019 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant
The Choice Neighborhoods program leverages significant public and private dollars to support locally driven strategies that address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. The grant supports the development of comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plans which focus on directing resources to address three core goals: Housing, People and Neighborhood. Deadline: June 10. (HUD)


Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program
The Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program funds projects that will mitigate the environmental impacts of transportation facilities. Approximately $6.7 million in awards will be funded. Applicants submitting the most competitive proposals will be invited to participate in the next level of the competitive process, anticipated in late summer or early fall 2019. First round applications due June 17, 2019. (CNRA)


SolSmart 2019 City & County Challenge
As solar energy grows nationwide, local governments continue to play a significant role in its expansion through the adoption of local solar policies and programs. To encourage and help more local governments become “solar-ready,” SolSmart is launching its 2019 City & County Challenge Campaign. The Challenge Campaign offers cities and counties new to the SolSmart program a chance to win special prizes and move towards Bronze, Silver, or Gold designation. Simply by holding a one-on-one consultation call with SolSmart staff and submitting a Solar Statement (a letter of interest committing staff time to receive technical assistance in pursuit of designation), your community will be eligible to receive special prizes. The Challenge Campaign will run from March 4, 2019, through June 21, 2019. (Learn more)


California Statewide Park Program
The Statewide Park Program competitive grants will create new parks and recreation opportunities in critically underserved communities across California. The current round of funding offers $254,942,000. Types of target projects include creating a new park, or expanding or renovating an existing park. Eligible entities include cities, counties, districts, join powers authorities, and 501(c)3 nonprofits. Postmarked or hand-deliver applications by August 5th. (SPP)


Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program Easement and Planning Grants
The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program makes strategic investments to protect agricultural lands from conversion to more GHG-intensive uses. Easement grants have no maximum limit and aim to protect important agricultural lands under threat of conversion through the acquisition of voluntary, permanent agricultural conservation easements. Planning grants provide up to $250,000 to local and regional governments to work closely with local stakeholders to develop local and regional land use policies and implementation activities that integrate agricultural land conservation in a way that reduces or avoids GHG emissions, supports job creation, and benefits AB 1550 populations. Final deadline: Friday, September 13. (SGC)


USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Sustainable Agricultural Systems Grant
The USDA is taking applications for the FY 2019 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. Applications must focus on approaches that promote transformational changes in the U.S. food and agriculture system within the next 25 years. The program seeks creative and visionary applications that take a systems approach, and that will significantly improve the supply of abundant, affordable, safe, nutritious, and accessible food, while providing sustainable opportunities for expansion of the bioeconomy. These approaches must demonstrate current and future social, behavioral, economic, health, and environmental impacts. Deadline: Sept. 26. (USDA)
SB 2: $123 million available for Housing Planning Grants
The Department of Housing and Community Development has $123 million available under the SB2 Planning Grants Program (PGP). The PGP will help local governments prepare, adopt, and implement plans that accelerate housing production; streamline the approval of housing development affordable to owner and renter households at all income levels; facilitate housing affordability, particularly for lower- and moderate-income households; and promote development consistent with the State Planning Priorities. Cities and counties that have a certified housing element and have completed either the 2017 or 2018 Annual Progress Report are eligible to receive grant funds ranging from $160,000 to $625,000 depending on the size of the jurisdiction. This a is a non-competitive, over-the-counter grant program that can fund a range of projects including targeted general plan updates, community plans and specific plans, zoning updates and by-right zoning for housing, streamlined environmental analyses, and process updates to streamline zoning. Applications will be accepted until November 30, 2019. (HCD)
Funding: Acorn Foundation’s general support grants for environmental justice groups
The Acorn Foundation is dedicated to supporting community-based organizations working to advance environmental conservation, sustainability and environmental justice. The Foundation is particularly interested in small, innovative community-based projects that engage in community organizing to advocate for environmental health and justice; preserve and restore habitats supporting biological diversity; and prevent or remedy toxic pollution. The Foundation has an open Letter of Inquiry process for general support grants to grassroots organizations. (Link)
Past Newsletters