Celebrating a Year of Defiant Climate Action 

In spite of ongoing setbacks at the federal level, 2017 was an exciting year for climate action for SBC and the Sierra Nevada. Personally as a Civicspark Fellow in 2016-2017 supporting SBC’s climate change programs, it was a year of highs and lows – most recently concluding with the exciting prospect of working full time as a Climate Technician and Sierra CAMP Project Manager with SBC. 

NC AlabamHills Cropped 2017Nonetheless, 2017 was also a year full of challenges. Many of the AmeriCorps Fellows in my cohort and I struggled with the shockwave effects as each federal (in)action hammered questions into our livelihoods, starting with the announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, then later as some Fellows’ immigration status became threatened (despite the fact that they were volunteering an entire 11 months to serve their country as an Americorps service member), again when the budget threatened to eliminate Americorps entirely, and most recently, with the threats to our national public lands.

Amidst these challenges though, I found beautiful strength in the successes and courage of other Fellows, my SBC colleagues and supervisors, and the ongoing myriad of local community leaders and initiatives. Here’s a recap of the 2017 climate actions SBC is celebrating: 

  • California extended the cap-and-trade bill beyond 2020, ensuring continued climate action funding for years to come, as well as significant provisions for Sierra communities.
  • The State initiated two major programs that are helping residents and business owners achieve energy savings: Go Green Financing and the Residential Energy Efficiency Loan (REEL) Program. These programs round out the financing options available that also include the hugely beneficial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. PACE enables low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water efficiency projects.
  • Placer County became the first jurisdiction in the Sierra to begin developing a full Climate Action Plan, with SBC and Placeworks’ support.
  • The City of Sonora became the 10th jurisdiction to begin developing an Energy Action Plan with SBC’s Climate Planning team.
  • Alpine County hosted their first-ever Community Energy Fair, and thanks to County staff, community volunteers, and the support of a certain Civicspark Fellow (yours truly), won a Full Silver Beacon Award from the Institute for Local Government for their energy initiatives.
  • Sierra CAMP welcomed four new members for a total of 30, expanding the total amount of Sierra non-profits, businesses, and local governments participating in Sierra CAMP webinars and state agency events, reviewing our policy memos and fact sheets, and promoting climate adaptation and mitigation strategies throughout the Sierra and beyond.
  • In December the Town of Truckee became the third jurisdiction in the Sierra Nevada and 50th city in the US to commit to 100% renewable energy, joining the City of South Lake Tahoe and Nevada City.
  • PG&E awarded $100,000 each to four different recipients, including the University of California, Merced and nonprofit organization Sierra Institute in Plumas County for projects designed to help communities prevent and prepare for increasing wildfire risk through building healthy and resilient forests and watersheds. The results of the grants will be made publicly available to help communities better understand, plan for and respond to climate change risks and encourage partnership with others.
  • The Town of Mammoth Lakes and the California Tahoe Conservancy were each recently awarded a grant from the CalTrans Adaptation Planning Grant Program for a combined total of more than $450,000. The funds will be used to begin a Climate Adaptation Strategy for the Lake Tahoe Basin and the Mammoth Lakes Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Strategies and General Plan Update, making these communities the first in the Sierra to begin a Climate Adaptation and Resiliency plan.

These initiatives and commitments mark a turning point in the Sierra: now, more than ever, our communities are recognizing and embracing climate action as a means to ensure the vitality of our regional community, economy, and environment. May our collective efforts expand and our positive impacts increase in 2018. Together we are making a difference.