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Luskin Center Deputy Director Briefs U.S. EPA Leadership and National Conference Participants on Advancing Climate Justice Luskin Center representative at EPA Conference

One of the most significant events in the arena of climate justice took place when California’s Senate Bill 535 (SB 535) was signed into law, stated Charles Lee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one of the nation’s most prominent leaders on environmental justice.  SB 535 mandates that at least 25% of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund investments go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center, was one of four SB 535 leaders from California invited by Lee to meet with senior EPA staff and also speak on a panel at the National Environmental Justice Conference on March 12 and 13th in Washington D.C. In addition to Callahan, the other panelists were the “father of SB 535” Shankar Prasad of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA, and formerly with the Coalition for Clean Air); Mari Rose Taruc, organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and coordinator of SB 535 Coalition; and Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary of environmental justice and tribal affairs, CalEPA.

The panelists shared the “backstory” of the efforts to conceive, pass and now implement SB 535.  They provided first hand perspectives on lessons regarding their successes and challenges—past and present, as well as implications for other parts of the nation.

Callahan emphasized that SB 535 and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) represent a tremendous opportunity to advance climate justice. She also noted the challenge in implementing such a major and unprecedented initiative. Pulling from the UCLA report on SB535 entitled, “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund,” she provided key recommendations for implementing the GGRF to ensure the investments maximize environmental, economic and public health benefits for communities across California most in need. The recommended evaluation and performance management approach draws from an earilier report “Pathways to Environmental Justice: Advancing a Framework for Evaluation” created by the UCLA Luskin Center in collaboration with EPA and EJ leaders from across the nation.

Urban Planning Student Awarded Switzer Fellowship

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By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin student writer 

Aaron Ordower, a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in the Luskin School was awarded the Switzer Environmental Fellowship, a highly competitive and merit based award, by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

The fellowship is awarded to 20 environmental leaders recognized by their academic institution or environmental experts. Through the fellowship, Ordower was awarded $15,000 to complete his degree and will be supported by the Switzer Foundation to continue his work facing crucial environmental challenges in Los Angeles.

Ordower has focused on urban sustainability and studies strategies for the development of transit friendly neighborhoods and urban growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse the effects of urban sprawl. He is also interested in how the different sectors of urban development, transportation, resource management and others can affect one another and work together for a more sustainable urban environment.

Urban planning students who have previously been awarded the prestigious award include Colleen Callahan who focused on transportation planning and environmental policy (2010) as well as John Scott-Railton and Miriam Torres who focused on climate change adaptation and water quality in low income communities (2011).

Luskin Center / EDF Report Featured on KPCC-FM

The latest edition of the Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER) was featured in an item on 89.3 KPCC-FM, the public radio affiliate in Pasadena.

In a segment by environmental reporter Jed Kim, Luskin Center deputy director Colleen Callahan highlighted the report’s finding that only 2 percent of Los Angeles County’s solar potential is currently being utilized.

“The fact that 98 percent is still untapped means that we have a tremendous resource sitting on a roof that really is going unused,” Callahan said.

The report estimates growing utilization to 10 percent would result in the creation of an estimated 47,000 jobs. Kim also spoke with Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, a community organizer with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, who said that these efficiencies are best directed at low income communities.

“If we’re going to grow the green economy, if we’re going to grow energy efficiency, we have to start in those communities first,” Judahidi said.

Listen to the entire report here.

White House Highlights Luskin Center Report UCLA Luskin Center research on clean energy solutions for Los Angeles cited by White House.

White House Says New Clean Energy Maps Answer Call to Unleash Data, Build Climate Resiliency

 UCLA-EDF Identify Major Opportunities to Curb Climate Pollution,
Spur Thousands of Clean Energy Jobs in Los Angeles County

(Los Angeles, CA – July 29, 2014) Los Angeles County is currently leaving around 98 percent of its solar capacity untapped. Achieving just 10 percent of its rooftop solar potential could create 47,000 jobs and slash nearly 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually — the equivalent of taking about half a million cars off the road — according to maps released today from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and highlighted in a White House announcement.

“Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor. “The commitments being announced today answer that call.”

The Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER) is a data-driven mapping tool designed to help communities identify opportunities to invest in projects that will save households money, create clean energy jobs, and strengthen climate resiliency in vulnerable communities. Maps show the region’s clean energy potential — in the form of rooftop solar energy generation and energy efficiency upgrades — which can reduce greenhouse gases while creating jobs and cutting electricity bills.

LASER also illustrates climate change-related heat impacts that are expected in the Los Angeles region, with a focus on the 38 percent of L.A. County residents (3.7 million people) living in environmentally-vulnerable communities burdened by air pollution and other risk factors, as identified by the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen). Based on analysis of CalEnviroScreen data, the report highlights that fully 50 percent of the state’s most vulnerable population lives in L.A. County. The State of California is expected to use the CalEnviroScreen to identify disadvantaged communities for the purpose of prioritizing funding from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.  

“The project is timely because with new state funding sources becoming available, LASER can help inform how the region invests resources to address pressing environmental challenges while providing job opportunities in its most impacted communities,” said Colleen Callahan, lead author of the study and deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

“Data mapping tools like LASER provide powerful visualizations of the harmful effects that climate change can have on our most vulnerable populations, while highlighting the potential for significant economic growth and substantially healthier communities,” said Jorge Madrid, EDF’s senior partnerships coordinator.

The maps are a response to President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, a call to action to leverage public data in order to stimulate innovation and collaboration in support of national climate change preparedness. Alarming scientific findings from the National Climate Assessment show that climate change is already impacting all parts of the U.S., and arid regions like L.A. County can expect more intense heat waves in the coming decades — making resilience critical.

“Los Angeles is at the forefront of fighting climate pollution, deploying clean energy and preparing for the already tangible effects of climate change,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves on President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. “Through projects like the Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report, the city can help deploy more open data to inform community resiliency measures.”

The LASER project provides detailed, newly updated data at the County and municipality level designed to help policymakers and the public prepare for a warmer future. Maps demonstrate estimated temperature increases, current environmental health risks, and climate change vulnerability in various parts of the region. Parcel-level analysis gives planners and property owners detailed information about which buildings and other spaces across L.A. County are ripe for solar panel installation and energy efficiency measures. Taken as a whole, the project paints a comprehensive picture of clean energy opportunities in Southern California, and demonstrates the potential economic benefits of sustained investment in these strategies.

The research is part of UCLA’s Grand Challenge project “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” which sets a goal for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life.

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 UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (innovation.luskin.ucla.edu), unites scholars with civic leaders to address pressing issues confronting our community, nation, and world. The Luskin Center produces research that informs public policy, with a focus on advancing environmental sustainability and innovation.

 Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our California Dream 2.0 Blog.  

 

 

UCLA Luskin Center Report Provides Guidance for Implementing Climate Investments Outlined in State Budget Lawmakers Approved this Week

California legislators approved a State budget on Sunday, marking a historic investment in climate action and local benefits especially for low-income communities.  The budget allocates $832 million in appropriations from the Greehouse Gas Reduction Fund to investments like sustainable communities and clean transportation, while leaving some process and project-level details yet to be determined.

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation released a REPORT today that could help fill in some of the details, proposing a systematic approach for implementing the investments.

With proceeds from the cap-and-trade program, California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will soon result in billions of dollars to reduce carbon pollution while creating local economic, environmental, and public health benefits. Senate Bill 535 (de León), which became law in 2012, requires that at least 25 percent of these monies go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities in California. Through the leadership of Senator de León, neighborhoods that need it most will see investments in transit, affordable housing, and energy efficiency.

To support California’s climate leadership and implementation of SB 535, the Luskin Center convened a working conference this spring, the results of which are now summarized in today’s report.  “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Reduction Fund: Implementing SB 535 and Advancing Climate Action in Disadvantaged Communities” contains four overarching recommendations:

  1. Establish a performance management approach for assessing program and project investment options (ex-ante) and tracking their results (ex-post). This approach would start with principles and goals contained in the germane state laws.
  2. Adopt criteria to screen, and indicators to score, investment options. The criteria should encompass and actualize the aforementioned goals, and all investment should be required to meet the eligibility criteria. The indicators should operate in a scoring system that prioritizes projects that achieve as many benefits as strongly as possible, while providing flexibility in how that is done.
  3. Select projects that meet SB 535 requirements by using metrics and thresholds to assess disadvantaged community benefits. Members of disadvantaged communities should have the opportunity to help define, to the extent feasible, investment priorities that then should inform corresponding metrics and performance targets/thresholds.
  4. Advance methods and data to make best use of the performance management approach. The State does not yet have sophisticated methods to estimate the co-benefits for disadvantaged communities, or even a common method for estimating how investments would achieve the primary goal of greenhouse gas reduction. This report makes recommendations for advancing these methods.

“Now that we have general allocations, we recommend that the State establish a performance management approach for assessing project-level investment options and tracking their results,” stated Colleen Callahan, a report author and deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. She adds, “This would involve criteria and indicators to screen and rank investments, with final SB 535 project selection guided by community input, metrics and thresholds.”

The report also contains considerations for making strategic and equitable investments in specific investment sector areas. Top priorities identified at this workshop as important for disadvantaged communities are reflected in the budget approved yesterday. This includes transit and low-carbon transportation, affordable housing and sustainable communities, weatherization and energy efficiency as well as sustainable urban forests programs.

Many of the recommendations in the report were informed by 150 representatives from disadvantaged communities, academia, government, civil society, and the private sector who participated in the UCLA hosted workshop.
For more information, see the REPORT and event WEBSITE with resources related to SB 535.

 

 

Convening Advances Path Forward for Investment Justice from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer, and
Colleen Callahan, Luskin Center

The Luskin Center convened 150 leaders in government, nonprofits, academia and the private sector on March 21 for a workshop designed to advance climate action in disadvantaged communities. California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is expected to generate tens of billions of dollars over the next decade to mitigate climate change and create local benefits. Senate Bill 535 (de León) requires that 25 percent of these monies go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities in California.

“This may be the largest environmental investment opportunity that these communities will see for decades,” stated J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center as he opened the workshop held at UCLA.

But many questions exist about revenue allocation and implementation. The Luskin Center hosted convening supported the development of an analytical and equitable approach for this process. Participants helped identify and refine evaluative criteria to guide investment decisions and performance metrics to track results of the investments for accountability and transparency. A summary of recommendations for a performance metrics tool will be released by UCLA later this year. The convening was a partnership with the SB 535 Quad.

What’s at Stake

Collage1State Senator Ricardo Lara’s keynote address underscored what is at stake. Millions of Californians are struggling economically and breathing dirty air while climate change will exacerbate economic and environmental health risks. Charles Lee, a national environmental justice leader with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, put the event in a national context, stating that environmental actions in California become models for the rest of the nation.

“We are here to build on the momentum started by many of you in this room who organized to pass SB 535, and are now working to fulfill the State’s promise to invest cap-and-trade revenues to benefit California’s disadvantaged communities,” DeShazo added.

Among these leaders were Marybelle Nzegwu at Public Advocates, who introduced Senator Lara’s keynote address at the workshop, along with Bill Magavern, policy director of Coalition for Clean Air, and Mari Rose Taruc, state organizing director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Mari Rose and Bill presented on the key laws in California including: AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that led to the cap-and-trade program, as well as SB 535 and AB 1532, which require that cap-and-trade revenues result in environmental, public health, and economic benefits for communities in need.

“We know the people in California that will be the most hurt by climate change are people with the least resources to face this problem,” stated Taruc. Yet as Magavern pointed out, the State has not yet defined what it means for an investment to “benefit disadvantaged communities,” and thus we need funding criteria and tracking mechanisms to verify that these investments are truly benefiting hard hit communities.

Implementation of a Landmark Law

Clifford Rechtschaffen, senior advisor for Governor Brown, spoke about the process and opportunities for SB 535 implementation. “We must make the disadvantaged community investment process inclusive, transparent, and accountable,” he stated while disclosing the State’s intent to hold public workshops on SB 535 implementation.

Rechtschaffen also discussed CalEnviroScreen, a tool the State developed to identify disadvantaged communities for the purpose of SB 535 implementation. “CalEnviroScreen can help the cap-and-trade program go to communities that most need it,” stated Rechtschaffen. Manuel Pastor, professor and director of the Program for Regional and Environmental Equity at USC, underscored the importance of this tool, which his research helped inform. The State’s tool measures cumulative risk, using a variety of environmental health and socioeconomic indicators.

Informing an Equitable and Performance-based Approach for Investment Benefits in Disadvantaged Communities

Collage 2Paving the way for the workgroups, Pastor then explained that each participant was grouped into one of six investment-sector focused sessions: 1) Sustainable Communities Strategies Implementation; 2) Low-Carbon Freight Transport; 3) Zero-Emission Passenger Transportation; 4) Energy Efficiency and Residential Weatherization; 5) Clean Renewable Energy; and 6) Community Greening and Forestry.

The charge for participants was to serve as policy analysts within their investment sector area. Pastor implied that the agenda for the workgroups was ambitiously aligned with a complex State process, but employed participants not to be intimidated by it. He spotlighted the important perspective of the environmental justice and community leaders in attendance.

The Greenlining Institute’s Vien Truong then made a presentation on “Criteria and Metrics.” Truong defined the terms as: “Principles capture broad goals, criteria are the objectives, and metrics are how we get there.” She proposed five criteria to drive funding allocation at the program level. The criteria were compiled by the UCLA Luskin Center and the SB 535 Quad, and derived from the relevant laws.

The breakout sessions that followed were designed to allow participants to refine the criteria and propose corresponding metrics. Each group discussed programs in their investment sector for which the criteria and metrics could be applied. Each of the six sessions began with presentations from State agency leaders who spoke about existing programs eligible for funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, per the State’s current Investment Plan. The groups then identified whether there were programs in their investment sector not on the table that should be eligible for funding in future three-year investment cycles. Finally, each group provided recommendations on how programs could best be implemented to benefit disadvantaged communities.

Recommendations and Next Steps 

Collage 3After hours of discussion, the six groups came back together. Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center, facilitated a panel in which a representative from each group summarized their discussion. Common themes across the groups included the importance of transparency and authentic community engagement; and leveraging of complementary programs across sectors. Proceedings from these discussions will be included in a report that the Luskin Center will release later this year.

To close out the workshop, a panel of government agency leaders shared how their agencies will approach the opportunity that SB 535 presents. Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary of environmental justice and tribal affairs at Cal/EPA, summarized the workshop’s importance: “Our goal is helping communities with a sense of hopelessness. If we do our job to meet our requirements to reduce GHG, we can achieve investment justice.”

Hector De La Torre, board member of the California Air Resources Board, emphasized the need to show immediate results to fend off law suits. “We need to show the money is going to the things the law says it will go to,” De La Torre said. Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, proposed that urban forestry could be a solution to the need for immediate results. “The state has a proven track record investing in urban forestry, and we can show results through projects in urban forestry,” Pimlott said.

Catherine J.K. Sandoval, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission referred to the importance of selecting appropriate existing programs to fund and in the longer-term, even updating or adding new programs to best address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Linda M. Wheaton of the California Department of Housing and Community Development emphasized the importance of the convening, stating,“It is time to take advantage of collaboration to develop inclusive and sustainable communities.”

J.R. DeShazo closed the workshop with a call for continued collaboration. He invited attendees to provide additional comments and review the post-workshop report. This report will contain recommendations for the State to achieve investment justice from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, to ensure that the investments combat climate change while providing tangible local benefits to hard hit communities.

 

Answering President Obama’s Call to Use ‘Climate Data’ to Grow Economy, Increase Resiliency

The UCLA Luskin Center and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released new maps as part of the Graduated Density Zoning tool designed to help local leaders identify opportunities to invest in clean energy jobs and strengthen climate resiliency in vulnerable communities. The maps are a response to President Obama’s new Climate Data Initiative, a call to action to leverage data in order to stimulate innovation and climate change preparedness.

“The UCLA Luskin Center, along with our research partner the Environmental Defense Fund, looks forward to being part of a national movement bringing data to bear to help communities, companies and citizens effectively prepare for climate change,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center.

The maps debuted at the Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund working conference on March 21 and also at the Environmental Forum hosted by Assembly member Mike Gatto on March 29.

“Data mapping tools like the LASER Atlas provide powerful visualizations of the effects that climate change can have on our most vulnerable communities, while also highlighting opportunities for economic growth, job creation and increased resiliency,” said Jorge Madrid of the Environmental Defense Fund.

For example, one map underscores that disadvantaged communities in L.A. County are benefiting from the installation of rooftop solar, with over 1,400 solar systems in low-income neighborhoods in just the investor-owned utility areas of the county alone. Yet another map in the LASER Atlas shows that we are only beginning to tap into L.A. County’s tremendous capacity to generate solar power. And doing so could reduce the need to fully operate polluting power plants in the region.

The maps also illustrate that residents of L.A. County are disproportionately impacted by environmental risks but, in turn, could disproportionately benefit from upcoming investments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This Fund provides a new opportunity to invest in renewable energy, as well as clean transportation and sustainable communities, to combat climate change and create jobs. SB 535 requires that at least 25 percent of the monies from this Fund go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The LASER Atlas research contributes to UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” whose goal is for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life.

 

Luskin Center To Host Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Conference

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will bring together leaders in government, nonprofits, academia and industry March 21 for a workshop designed to help disadvantaged communities take a leading role in fighting climate change.

Consistent with President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, the “Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund workshop will advance a data-driven approach to combat climate change and build community resiliency with smart investments.

States across the nation are starting to make investments to reduce carbon pollution. In California, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will provide billions of dollars for projects designed to mitigate climate change and create local benefits, especially in hard hit communities.

But many questions remain about revenue allocation and implementation in disadvantaged communities. The Investment Justice Workshop at UCLA will support the development of an analytical, data-driven approach for this process. This will involve evaluative criteria to guide investment decisions and performance metrics to track results of the investments.

“California’s climate leadership provides lessons for the rest of the country,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center and professor of public policy at UCLA. “Aligned with President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, UCLA is bringing together leaders and lessons to help the State make wise investments with the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.”

The event will feature research including Graduated Density Zoning, produced by the UCLA Luskin Center and commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The LASER Atlas provides a tool to help local decision-makers and community members think strategically about where to invest to mitigate carbon pollution, expand renewable energy generation and create jobs. The Atlas includes maps of climate change vulnerability as well as rooftop solar energy capacity.

The LASER Atlas underscores how smart investments in solar and energy efficiency can reduce energy bills, thus lowering climate change emissions while at the same time making buildings more livable and saving money for residents, businesses and taxpayers.

The information in the Atlas comes at an important time. Unless changes are made, the L.A. region is projected to have three times the number of extreme heat days in the downtown and urban core by 2050, and four times the number of heat days in the valleys and at higher elevations, according to a separate UCLA study led by Alex Hall and mapped in the LASER Atlas.

In response to the President’s call to action via his Climate Data Initiative, the UCLA Luskin Center and EDF are now adding additional data layers to the LASER Atlas and plan to expand it to include other geographic areas.

“The UCLA Luskin Center, along with our research partner the Environmental Defense Fund, looks forward to being part of a national movement bringing data to bear to help communities, companies and citizens effectively prepare for climate change,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center.

“Data mapping tools like the LASER Atlas provide powerful visualizations of the effects that climate change can have on our most vulnerable communities, while also highlighting opportunities for economic growth, job creation and increased resiliency,” said Jorge Madrid of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Specifically, the new maps show that residents of Los Angeles County are disproportionately impacted by environmental risks but, in turn, could disproportionately benefit from upcoming investments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

For example, the LASER Atlas illustrates that disadvantaged communities are already benefiting from the installation of rooftop solar panels, with over 1,400 solar systems in low-income neighborhoods in just the investor-owned utility areas of the county alone. The data shows that expanding these installations would tap into L.A. County’s tremendous capacity to generate solar power.

The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund provides a new opportunity to invest in renewable energy, as well as clean transportation and sustainable communities, to combat climate change and create jobs.

The event on March 21 and its related research contributes to UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” whose goal is for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life.