California local governments will play an important role in the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). The initial scoping plan of AB32 called for local governments to set municipal and communitywide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets of 15 percent below current levels by 2020. To plan and implement these savings, local governments have developed local Climate Action Plans. These plans are comprehensive roadmaps that outline specific activities a local government will undertake to reduce GHG emissions.
Having a plan is a great first step. However, implementing the plan can be a challenge for many local governments. Smaller to medium-sized municipalities generally suffer from limited staff and capacity to implement stated goals or address new mandates. To overcome this barrier, the California Sustainability Alliance has developed a utility-funded program model to assist local governments: The Climate Action Fellows Program Model.
The objective of the program model is to provide a blueprint to use local university students (as Climate Action Fellows) to add capacity to local governments to address climate protection mandates, voluntary goals and commitments. Employing university students to serve as dedicated climate protection professionals provides these youth with unparalleled experience and place-based application of classroom theory, while providing the local municipality with cost conscious staffing to meet the goals set out in their Climate Action Plans. The model could be funded and implemented regionally by energy utilities. The model outlines the key steps to implementing the program including engaging and selecting partner local governments, recruiting and training fellows, supporting the fellows during implementation, and concluding fellow’s work by transitioning work back to local government staff.
The Alliance developed the Climate Action Fellows Model and pilot tested the approach with the City of Covina throughout the second half of 2014. Two fellows supported the City to address the most challenging aspect of its Energy Action Plan: reducing commercial sector energy consumption. The long-term objective of the City was to create a Green Business Certification program. The fellows supported the first steps of this process by outlining a business energy efficiency pilot program and recruiting pilot participants.
The Covina pilot culminated in a presentation by the fellows to the Covina City Council outlining the pilot program, the deliverables compiled by the fellows, and the status of Covina’s Green Business Pilot. The fellows’ support made inroads to addressing the City’s commercial sector climate and energy goals; city staff now are able to carry commercial sector efforts forward in 2015.
Read the full report outlining the program model and detailing the work done for the City of Covina. Expanding this program across California could provide much needed support to Local Governments and advance progress towards meeting the state’s aggressive climate goals.