Environmental Quality / 2013

Climate Leaders reducing environmental impact by sharing best practices among local leaders

Climate Leaders  reducing environmental impact by sharing best practices among local leaders

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Generation Green's Contra Costa County Climate Leaders Program

The mission of Generation Green's Contra Costa County Climate Leaders Program (4CL) is to facilitate education on environmental policy implementation- to encourage local cities to take action to reduce greenhouse gases in Northern California by implementing best practices used by other local governments. The 4CL Program is modeled after other county networks which have proven to build capacity to the region and we see this model as a perfect addition to the environmental groups in LA county, striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare their cities for the climate changes we are currently experiencing and the larger impacts that are yet to come. Our organization provides local elected officials and staff professionals with up-to-date information through a monthly newsletter, fact sheets, and a website with references and links to projects and policies from peer cities in our county and the larger Bay Area. We bolster this effort with a quarterly workshop opportunity to gather face-to-face to review, discuss, network and learn about a current topic through several guest speakers and important stakeholders from the area. Unlike other counties in the Bay Area, Contra Costa County governments have been slower than other governments to address the issue of climate change and we see a similar pattern in the majority of LA County cities. Yet, real action and real implementation is well underway! We see this model as the ideal system for getting LA County to move forward to reduce emissions in order to abide by emission reduction policy and prepare the local cities for what lies ahead. By focusing on the reduction emission strategies which save cities money, local governments can reduce their impact with devastating their budgets. Sharing best practices, policies, documents and activities reduces the strain on any one cities already overworked staff and elected officials. Whether it is benchmarking building energy use or focusing on emergency planning through adaptation strategies, cities can help one another with facilitation by a Climate Leaders branch in LA. Generation Green's 4CL Program has formally established a network of over 700 leaders through our Constant Contact newsletter list and another 500 leaders on social media outlets such as Facebook in the Bay Area, specifically in Contra Costa County. Our network continues to grow on a regular basis. The network uses a multimedia communications strategy that ensures that best practices are shared and implemented throughout the local regional county network as climate action plans are continuing to develop. The communication strategy we have selected has a three pronged multi-media approach that provides encouraging reminders and easy access to the tools necessary to implement new policies. These prongs are: o A regional website that acts as a repository for best practices polices with an interactive map and matrix of key issues o A monthly newsletter full of pertinent and useful information including funding, legislative updates and upcoming events o Periodic half-day workshops providing education and networking opportunities for key stakeholders on key climate issues This multi-media approach ensures that best practices at the forefront of day-to-day discussion--and that they are shared, supported, and implemented into policies that reduce Greenhouse gas emissions in Contra Costa County. By supporting the leaders that are already present in LA County, we will not be stepping on the heels of other organizations or creating more work for staff, but we will be bringing together the many individuals and fostering the Climate Leaders that are already taking action!


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Directly from our efforts, six Contra Costa cities have completed Climate Action Plans. Four other Cities are currently in the process of developing a Climate Action Plan and eight additional city agreements have been made to accept assistance from local environmental organizations to being the Climate Action Planning Process by focusing on energy-related emission reduction strategies. By viewing the interactive map on our website, http://www.cccclimateleaders.org/green-cities-map.html, you can see the progress of our county. Significant environmental progress is underway but, there is still much to be done.

We have grown our newsletter network to over 700 people and have over 500 individuals on our social media outlets.

We have completed a dozen in-depth studies on environmental issues which have been used by several local cities.

We have held over a dozen workshops, connected with individuals from every city in Contra Costa County and have made real strides with the majority of the cities we work with.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

4CL will work with all of the local governments: both elected officials and staff members. We will also work with local non-profit groups to mentor and create an active network in LA County. Any and all key stakeholders will be involved in order to spread the work and benefits of best practices.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

We use evaluation feedback surveys, track our website traffic, and monitor the activity and interactions with our newsletter.

We will continually maintain and expand our network in Contra Costa County and track our contacts. An up-to-date contacts database tracks our efforts to target our message to the right people and prevent duplicating efforts. We evaluate the use and effectiveness of our newsletter through the open rates and clicks on links through Constant Contact. We can see what draws the most attention and focus on the issues we see our network relating to most. We rigorously track workshop attendees: both numbers of attendees as well as the cities represented. We post and share these lists of attendees on our website to ensure that the sustainability leaders are able to communicate with one another and continue the conversations that began during our workshops. At the end of each workshop, we provide evaluation forms to ensure that attendees learn from our workshop topics, speakers, and receive enough information to help them. Through this process, each workshop is graded and feedback is reviewed on a scale of one to five in a number of categories, we have consistently receive scores averaging 4.5 or higher for our Contra Costa County Workshops. We keep track of city progress through a local actions section on our website to see where each city is in environmental progress. Through a Climate Action Matrix and the Green Cities Map, we see where cities are in completing a climate action plan and on other important pieces of policy. This would most definitely be replicated for LA County. We would also monitor the visitors and visitor activity on our website. Our true measure of success and best feedback/evaluation is through the progress of the local governments we work with. The education, networking opportunities, and resources we provide are best evaluated by those who use our tools (or we find out why others do not use them). We continually seek feedback in order to ensure our resources are those that cities find helpful and give our cities the support they need!

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

The heat-trapping properties of global warming pollutants are undisputed. The fact that human activities generate these global warming pollutants is also undisputed. With more than 15 years of observed and studied scientific data, we now understand the climate system and its relationship to human activities. There is consensus among the IPCC and scientists about the reality of global warming. Although there may be uncertainty about exactly when, where and how the earth’s climate will respond to global warming pollutants, there is no dispute, and observations indicate, that detectable warming changes are already under way. Natural and human factors can both affect the average temperature of our planet. Natural variability in the Earth’s climate system can cause small changes over decades to centuries. Industrialization has increased that rate, so that 80% of the current global carbon dioxide emissions result from human activities. In the 21st century, the global warming pollution that humans are causing will impact the climate tens or possibly a hundred times faster than natural rates Climate change is a challenge too important to be denied and too urgent to be ignored. As cities, we depend on materials, products and people everywhere, and, as such, we need to work together to manage our world. In the absence of action by the federal government, US mayors are confronting climate change and working to improve the quality and livability of our cities. It isn’t so much what you do—just so long as you do it. LA County needs to be a part of taking action, and be a Climate Leader, share best practices and work with leaders to make changes to their greenhouse gas emissions. Our organization can be a facilitator of this change. The overall long-term effect of change will be an improvement in lifestyles, quality of life and livable cities. The short term costs of purchasing biodiesel can be easily offset if we prevent increases in childhood asthma rates. Carpooling can cut down on commute time since it alleviates traffic congestion, pedestrian and bicycle friendly shopping areas generate a community center, and green power can provide fixed cost procurements. We can’t afford NOT to address climate change. The potential economic costs of impacts such as flooding, drought, loss of forest and tourism, are enormous. Companies are finding that reducing emissions can actually improve operational efficiencies, reduce energy and production costs, and increase market share.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

A 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from city operations would be a sure sign of success by 2050. This would take real work, real commitment, and a multitude of support from local governments, residents, constituents and key stakeholders.