Climate Resiliency Strategies at the Community Level

How CCEDA and its Partners are Changing the Narrative Around Climate Change. Final Installment of Webinar Series to include Sierra Business Council, Mammoth Lakes Trail & Public Access Foundation. 

In late 2019, the California Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA), in partnership with Climate Resolve and a number of state agencies, began discussions on how to develop and implement climate adaptation and resiliency strategies into the everyday functions of community-based organizations across the state of California. Today, those discussions have evolved into a full-fledged, multi-phase movement that has seen climate assessment and climate resource guides become available to over 100 community-based organizations statewide. 

“The state had produced a statewide assessment of climate change, but there was nothing that was more regional in nature and a lot of our community-based organizations had very little in the way of resources and guides for addressing climate adaptation and resiliency,” said Roberto Barragan, executive director of CCEDA. “From our conversations, the state of California’s Department of Community Services then funded the development of regional assessments and a resource guide through Climate Resolve.”

Over the past year, CCEDA and Climate Resolve launched the first phase of their movement, hosting a series of webinars with community-based organizations to distribute resources and share strategies on implementing climate adaptation and climate resiliency practices into their everyday operations. 

Solar panel installation, cc 2.0

The Sierra Nevada Regional Climate Adaptation Webinar Series has come in nine installments across nine months, the last of which will be held on Thursday, January 20th, at 2 PM PST, and is open to the public.

“We’ve been looking at climate adaptation strategies in communities as diverse as Los Angeles, to the central and north coasts and now the Sierra Nevada,” Barragan said. “We’ve brought in local organizations who have been endeavoring to respond to climate change, including economic justice organizations and community action agencies that are providing information to members so they can be better situated to implement strategies and help serve their communities.”

For Barragan, the movement is grounded in supporting the organizations that already do so much for their communities. 

“These organizations are not necessarily focused on climate change, but are at the forefront of anti-poverty programs by helping communities of color deal with issues like childcare, food insecurity, low-income energy and financial assistance,” Barragan said. “These organizations understand climate change is occurring because it’s already affecting their communities and the clients they serve.”

As a result, a motivating factor for hosting the webinar series has been to broaden the scope of the climate change narrative by bringing it down to the community level.

Rooftop solar apartment building, cc 2.0

“When people talk about climate change, they talk about greenhouse emissions, cap and trade programs and solar farms,” Barragan said. “But in smaller, low-income communities, they’re more likely to be worried by the fact that it’s 100-degree weather and they can’t afford to have their air-conditioning unit on. Many of the communities we serve do not have the resources to be fully resilient to climate change, so we’re helping our organizations serve those communities by understanding ways they can adapt.” 

Fortunately, CCEDA has been featuring several organizations that are actively implementing climate adaptation and resiliency projects and can serve as role models for others to follow. 

“There’s a community action agency in Riverside that’s developed a robust network of cooling centers that open up for individuals to come and cool down when it’s over 100 degrees,” Barragan said. “These cooling centers are a strategy that has already been replicated across a number of organizations across the state.”

HVAC roof-unit cc 2.0

“There is also a group in Sacramento that wants to expand solar panel installation programs to homes in low-income communities,” Barragan said. “Another organization in Los Angeles is looking to put in a cool roof and cool street strategy in place, where the roofs are painted white and streets are surfaced with a white coating in order to reflect heat, as opposed to absorb it.”

The timing of these discussions, and providing documents such as the climate assessment and climate resource guide to participating organizations, could not be more critical.

“We’re experiencing a significant budget surplus at the state level and it’s good to hear that the Governor is putting more money into climate adaptation and climate change resiliency strategies,” Barragan said. “But we need to focus on low-income communities that cannot afford to spend those dollars, even though it’s needed even more in these locations.”

Therefore, CCEDA and its partners are not waiting for state or federal funding or guidance to support their community-based organizations. 

We’ve seen more hot days and increasing energy costs in California than ever before, so we can’t wait for the government to come in and solve it,” Barragan said. “While many of our member organizations are addressing 100 challenges and needs in the community, climate adaptation and climate resiliency in response to climate change has to be the 101st. They need to begin to look at realistic, affordable and direct strategies they can potentially pursue to address climate change in their communities.”

Affordable housing with solar-panels, cc 2.0

Consequently, while Thursday’s final webinar segment marks the conclusion of phase one, CCEDA is already working on the next phase for their movement. 

“In the next phase, we’re hoping to pursue a strategy that Climate Resolve has developed around building resilience hubs,” Barragan said. “Resilience hubs are efforts by specific community organizations in their neighborhood to develop a hub of resilience, i.e. a location where you’re going to have solar panels, battery storage, a cooling center, resources and programs to support individuals and residents as they deal with issues of climate change. These locations will be where people can come during a disaster and charge their phones, access food and water resources, and where organizations will be able to connect to each other and meet their local community’s needs. Resilience hubs are a strategy we want to provide technical assistance for our members to develop in their regions.”

Climate resiliency hub – screenshot, cc 2.0

In the meantime, however, CCEDA and its partners remain grounded in their mission to bring the climate change discussion down to the community level. 

“People get caught up in the science and the macro issues, but these are issues that are not urban or rural in nature, these issues are people in nature,” Barragan said. “The objective here is to say, ‘What does this mean for South Los Angeles? East Oakland? Fresno? What does it mean for the communities where our members are trying to get things done and who themselves will have to deal with these issues of high heat and climate change?’”

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Learn more about the Climate Adaptation Initiative

Scott King writes about science and the environment for the Sierra Nevada Ally. He has a Master’s degree in Media Innovation from the University of Nevada, Reno and a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing with a minor in Marketing from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Scott served for two years as a literacy instructor with the Peace Corps in the community of Gouyave, Grenada. Support his work.

Founded in 2020, the Sierra Nevada Ally is a self-reliant publication that offers unique, differentiated reporting on the environment, conservation, education, and public policy, and gives voice to writers, visual artists, and performers. We rely on the generosity of our readers and aligned partners.

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