U.S. EPA announces availability of $100 million through Inflation Reduction Act for Environmental Justice Grants

“Since day one, President Biden pledged to prioritize environmental justice and equity for all, and EPA is at the heart of delivering on that mission. Last year, we announced EPA’s first-ever national program office dedicated to advancing environmental justice, memorializing our commitment to this critical work. I couldn’t be prouder to now be announcing an unprecedented level of funding thanks to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act for community-based solutions that support underserved and overburdened communities. This is a key step that will help build strong partnerships with communities across the country and move us closer to realizing a more just and equitable future for all.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the availability of approximately $100 million for projects that advance environmental justice in underserved and overburdened communities across the country. This funding, made possible through President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, marks the largest amount of environmental justice grant funding ever offered by the Agency. EPA has published two Requests for Applications for this funding through the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program and the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program. 

These grant programs further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which directed that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to overburdened communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts.

The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Program (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program

The EJCPS Program will provide an estimated $30 million in funding directly to community-based nonprofit organizations (and partnerships of these organizations), with $5 million reserved for small community-based nonprofit organizations with five or fewer full-time employees. In total, the Agency anticipates funding approximately 50 awards of $500,000 and 30 awards of $150,000.

EPA’s EJCPS Cooperative Agreement Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working on or planning to work on projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. The program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships with other stakeholders (e.g., local businesses and industry, local government, medical service providers, academia, etc.) to develop solutions that will significantly address environmental and/or public health issues at the local level.

The Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program 

The EJG2G Program (formerly known as the State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement program) will provide an estimated $70 million in funding. Of this, $20 million will be for State governments to be used in conjunction with Community-Based Organization (CBO) partners, $20 million will be for local government with CBO partners, $20 million will be for Federally Recognized Tribal Nations with CBO partners, and $10 million will be for U.S. territories and remote tribes with limited access to CBO partners. In total the Agency anticipates funding approximately 70 projects of up to $1 million each for a 3-year project. 

The EJG2G Program works to support and/or create model state activities that lead to measurable environmental or public health results in communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms and risks. These models should leverage or utilize existing resources or assets of state agencies to develop key tools and processes that integrate environmental justice considerations into state governments and government programs.

Under both EJCPS and EJG2G programs, EPA will be giving special consideration to the following focus areas:

  • Projects addressing climate change, disaster resiliency, and/or emergency preparedness 
  • Projects located in and/or benefitting rural areas 
  • Projects conducting Health Impact Assessments (HIA)  

Applicants interested must submit proposal packages on or before April 10, 2023, to be considered for the available funding. Applicants should plan for projects to begin on October 1, 2023.

This funding builds on additional funding from the American Rescue Plan. In December 2021, EPA selected 154 organizations to receive a total of approximately $18.4 million in environmental justice grant funding.

EPA is planning to announce an additional environmental justice grant competition, making extensive use of IRA resources, in early 2023 to establish a network of grant-makers across the United States to facilitate awarding assessment, planning, and project development grants to communities and their partners.

Pre-application Assistance Webinars

EPA will host pre-application assistance webinars to answer prospective applicant questions about the EJ grant process.

  • To attend the first webinar on January 24, 2023 focused on EJCPS, register here.
  • To attend the second webinar on January 26, 2023 focused on EJG2G, register here.

Learn more

Climate change threatens to erode Illinois’ archaeological record

Read the full post from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey.

Climate-change-induced loss of the state’s cultural heritage is a social justice issue that will be felt most acutely by low-income Illinois citizens and Tribal descendant communities who have traditionally been the most marginalized. Many live in the most vulnerable areas. Doing nothing in the face of this crisis is not only inaction. It is a conscious choice to let the tangible links to history disappear forever. Given the scale of this challenge, what is the best way forward?

Nationwide initiative to accelerate energy upgrades for affordable housing

Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity (R2E2) will provide deep technical assistance to state, local, and tribal governments as well as community-based organizations to jumpstart energy upgrades for single family and multifamily affordable housing, especially in frontline communities. These retrofits will lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve residents’ health, create good-paying local jobs, and help mitigate racial inequity.

R2E2 will kick off with training sessions in January for state, local, and community teams on scaling up building energy retrofits and leveraging the unprecedented federal funding available from COVID-19 relief programs, the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and other sources. R2E2 is a partnership of the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Elevate, Emerald Cities Collaborative, and HR&A Advisors, with People’s Climate Innovation Center advising on centering equity in the project and its outcomes and on facilitating community-driven planning processes.

What’s really driving ‘climate gentrification’ in Miami? It isn’t fear of sea-level rise

Residents of Miami’s Little Haiti have been fighting plans for a luxury development for several years. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

by Richard Grant, University of Miami and Han Li, University of Miami

Miami’s Little Haiti has been an immigrant community for decades. Its streets are lined with small homes and colorful shops that cater to the neighborhood, a predominantly Afro-Caribbean population with a median household income well below Miami’s.

But Little Haiti’s character may be changing.

A $1 billion real estate development called the Magic City Innovation District is planned in the neighborhood, with luxury high-rise apartments, high-end shops and glass office towers.

Two women walk past Cafe Creole, with vibrant paintings on the side, including one wall reading 'Stand up lil Haiti' with a raised fist.
Little Haiti’s streets have been lined with murals and mom-and-pop shops for generations, but that’s changing. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The developers emphasize their commitment to sustainability. But high-end real estate investments like this raise property values, pushing up property taxes and the cost of living for surrounding neighborhoods.

The potential effect on shops and homeowners and on the culture of the community has stoked controversy and protests. Nearby strip malls have been bought up for new development, leaving long-time businesses with fewer affordable options. Other big developments are now being planned.

Some media and urban scholars have labeled what’s happening here “climate gentrification.”

It’s the idea that investors and homebuyers are changing their behavior and moving from coastal areas into poorer, higher-elevation neighborhoods like Little Haiti, which sits on a ridge less than a mile from the bay, in anticipation of worsening climate change risks, such as sea-level rise. Miami is often held up as an example.

But are Miami’s investors and homebuyers really motivated by climate change?

A different kind of gentrification

The story goes that Miami homebuyers are abandoning the coasts – where high tides can already bring street flooding in some areas – and are looking for higher-elevation areas because they want to escape climate change.

That isn’t what we’re finding, though.

In Yale’s Climate Opinion Survey of Miami-Dade County in 2021, only half of Miami residents said they believe global warming will harm them personally – far lower than the 70% who said that in Delaware and the 90% in Canada, Western Europe and Japan. Another survey found 40% of Miami-Dade residents weren’t concerned about the impact climate change might have on the market.

In a new study, our team at the University of Miami found a more nuanced picture of what is actually pushing homeowners to higher ground.

For the most part, we found that the shift away from the coasts is fueled by costs. Flood risk plays a role through the rising cost of flood insurance, but much of the shift is plain old gentrification – developers looking for cheaper land and spinning it as a more sustainable choice to win over public officials and future residents.

Rather than bottom-up pressure built on residents’ alarm about sea-level rise, we found a continuation of the usual rational investment decisions.

Developers are driving the process

Present-day “climate gentrification” in Miami is largely determined and driven by capitalist investment opportunities – relatively lower prices and greater expected returns – which are the characteristics of the traditional gentrification process.

We found that neither homebuyers nor real estate agents are driving this process today in Miami. Rather, developers are using the concept of climate risk to market properties in more elevated areas and are working in tandem with policymakers to facilitate urban redevelopment.

Miami is very different from other global cities, in that its wealthy homebuyers and second-home buyers exhibit fewer concerns about rising sea levels and climate change. A large percentage of Miami homebuyers – about 13% in 2021 – don’t live in the U.S. and may evaluate risk differently, seeing Miami properties as safer investments than they have at home or as future second homes.

Miami’s gentrification also isn’t limited to higher-elevation neighborhoods. In coastal areas such as Miami Beach, taxes and housing and rental prices are rising, and poorer people are being pushed out of neighborhoods. Miami’s average rent is now over $2,800 a month, up 16% from October 2021 to October 2022. That’s about $800 higher than the U.S. average, and it rose at nearly twice the national rate over the past year.

Coastal homebuyers should be more concerned

Climate change is without question a risk for Miami. The insurance industry warns that sea-level rise and moderate flooding of up to 1 foot will affect 48% of total properties in oceanfront Miami-Dade County by 2050.

Homebuyers should be more concerned than they are.

We believe “climate gentrification” is a meaningful concept for exploring how the impacts and costs of climate change will shift housing and urban inequalities in the future. But so far, the idea that gentrification is fueled by climate change in Miami doesn’t match reality.

Richard Grant, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, University of Miami and Han Li, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Miami

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Supreme Court admissions case could upend environmental justice laws

Read the full story at Stateline.

In recent years, more states have crafted environmental justice policies to help communities of color plagued by polluted air and water, poor health outcomes and limited access to green space.

But now they fear that work could be upended by a pair of pending U.S. Supreme Court cases examining affirmative action admissions policies at universities. If the court strikes down affirmative action, many state lawmakers believe, the ruling could open legal challenges to “race-conscious” laws that seek to help marginalized communities.

How Can Climate Solutions Promote Inclusivity and Equity?

Download the publication.

Research Questions Addressed

What are the equity-related risks, barriers, and opportunities associated with selected carbon mitigation technologies?

What recommendations can be offered to help ensure a more equitable transition to a low-carbon economy?

What educational, institutional, and policy interventions can help to advance equity across selected carbon solutions?

Primary Findings

By engaging experts and stakeholders, this report addresses challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for advancing equity among selected carbon reduction solutions. The solutions are derived from the Drawdown Georgia research effort, and the report contributes to a deeper understanding of how equity considerations can be more fully integrated into climate action. The findings highlight barriers associated with: solution awareness; affordability; wealth inequities affecting communities with the greatest energy burden; racial inequities in access to loans for capital investment; gaps in rural broadband and mobility infrastructure; misalignment between the requirements and processes of governmental programs and communities with the greatest need; heirs’ property land tenure that reflects historic racial discrimination; and policy, particularly with respect to scaling up solutions such as solar and conservation agriculture, as well as institutional food procurement practices that make sourcing from small farms to institutions very difficult.

Loss and damage: Who is responsible when climate change harms the world’s poorest countries?

Extreme flooding in Pakistan in 2022 affected 33 million people. Akram Shahid/AFP via Getty Images

by Bethany Tietjen, Tufts University

You may be hearing the phrase “loss and damage” in the coming weeks as government leaders meet in Egypt for the 2022 U.N. Climate Change Conference.

It refers to the costs, both economic and physical, that developing countries are facing from climate change impacts. Many of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries have done little to cause climate change, yet they are experiencing extreme heat waves, floods and other climate-related disasters. They want wealthier nations – historically the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions – to pay for the harm.

A powerful example is Pakistan, where extreme rainfall on the heels of a glacier-melting heat wave flooded nearly one-third of the country in the summer of 2022.

The flooding turned Pakistan’s farm fields into miles-wide lakes that stranded communities for weeks. More than 1,700 people died, millions lost their homes and livelihoods, and more than 4 million acres of crops and orchards, as well as livestock, drowned or were damaged. This was followed by a surge in malaria cases as mosquitoes bred in the stagnant water.

Pakistan contributes only about 1% of the global greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. But greenhouse gases don’t stay within national borders – emissions anywhere affect the global climate. A warming climate intensifies rainfall, and studies suggest climate change may have increased Pakistan’s rainfall intensity by as much as 50%.

A man sits on a bench outside the door too his home, surrounded by floodwater up to his shins.
Many of the millions of people affected by the 2022 flooding in Pakistan already lived in poverty. Gideon Mendel For Action Aid/ In Pictures/Corbis via Getty Images

The question of payments for loss and damage has been a long-standing point of negotiation at United Nations climate conferences, held nearly every year since 1995, but there has been little progress toward including a financial mechanism for loss and damage in international climate agreements.

Many developing countries are looking to this year’s conference, COP27, as a crucial moment for making progress on establishing that formal mechanism.

Africa’s climate conference

With Egypt hosting this year’s U.N. climate conference, it’s not surprising that loss and damage will take center stage.

Countries in Africa have some of the lowest national greenhouse gas emissions, and yet the continent is home to many of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries [visit the original story at The Conversation to view the map of most vulnerable countries].

To deal with climate change, these countries – many of them among the world’s poorest – will have to invest in adaptation measures, such as seawalls, climate-smart agriculture and infrastructure that’s more resilient to high heat and extreme storms. The UN Environment Program’s Adaptation Gap Report, released Nov. 3, 2022, found that developing countries need five to 10 times more international adaptation finance than wealthier countries are providing.

When climate disasters strike, countries also need more financial help to cover relief efforts, infrastructure repairs and recovery. This is loss and damage.

Egypt is emphasizing the need for wealthy countries to make more progress on providing financial support for both adaptation and loss and damage.

Climate injustice and loss and damage

The conversation on loss and damage is inherently about equity. It evokes the question: Why should countries that have done little to cause global warming be responsible for the damage resulting from the emissions of wealthy countries?

That also makes it contentious. Negotiators know that the idea of payments for loss and damage has the potential to lead to further discussions about financial compensation for historical injustices, such as slavery in the United States or colonial exploitation by European powers.

At COP26, held in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators made progress on some key issues, such as stronger emissions targets and pledges to double adaptation finance for developing countries. But COP26 was seen as a disappointment by advocates trying to establish a financial mechanism for wealthier nations to provide finance for loss and damage in developing countries.

What a formal mechanism might look like

The lack of resolution at COP26, combined with Egypt’s commitment to focus on financing for adaptation and loss and damage, means the issue will be on the table this year.

The nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions expects discussions to focus on institutional arrangements for the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, which focuses on providing technical assistance to help developing countries minimize loss and damage; and on fine-tuning the Glasgow Dialogue, a formal process developed in 2021 to bring countries together to discuss funding for loss and damage.

The V20 group of finance ministers, representing 58 countries highly vulnerable to climate change, and the G-7 group of wealthy nations also reached an agreement in October 2022 on a financial mechanism called the Global Shield Against Climate Risks. The Global Shield is focused on providing risk insurance and rapid financial assistance to countries after disasters, but it’s unclear how it will fit into the international discussions. Some groups have raised concerns that relying on insurance systems can overlook the poorest people and distract from the larger discussion of establishing a dedicated fund for loss and damage.

Two elements of developed countries’ reluctance to formalize a loss and damage mechanism involve how to determine which countries or communities are eligible for compensation and what the limitations of such a mechanism would be.

What would a threshold for loss and damage eligibility look like? Limiting countries or communities from receiving compensation for loss and damage based on their current emissions or gross domestic product could become a problematic and complicated process. Most experts recommend determining eligibility based on climate vulnerability, but this can also prove difficult.

How will world leaders respond?

Over a decade ago, developed countries committed to provide US$100 billion per year to fund adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. But they have been slow to meet that commitment, and it does not cover the damages from the climate impacts the world is already seeing today.

Establishing a loss and damage mechanism is considered one avenue to provide recourse for global climate injustice. All eyes will be on Egypt Nov. 6-18, 2022, to see how world leaders respond.

This article was updated Nov. 3, 2022, with the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report findings.

Bethany Tietjen, Research fellow in climate policy, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Here’s where the U.S. is testing a new response to rising seas

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Native American tribes are competing for the first federal grants designed to help move communities away from high water and other dangers posed by climate change.

Social media engagement increases government action, reduces pollution: study

Read the full story from The Hill.

Citizen engagement through social media leads to a significant improvement in government response and a decrease in water and air pollution, a new study has found

ERI part of NSF-funded collaboration exploring extreme heat solutions in Midwest communities

Read the full story from Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) is a partner on a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) grant to explore solutions to mitigate heat island effects in collaboration with Indianapolis and three other Midwestern communities.

The grant, led by the Midwest Climate Collaborative (MCC) of which ERI is a member, aims to design community-based solutions for equitable expansion of tree canopies by working with stakeholders and applying existing research and data.