Rural Capacity for Climate Readiness - CARB-funded Workshop Results

Kaeleigh Reynolds

Kaeleigh Reynolds

Project Manager, Climate & Energy

Sierra Business Council (SBC) is grateful for the opportunity provided by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change (UCD CRC) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) to host workshops across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade region to identify the successes, barriers, and assistance needed in readying the region for climate change and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

SBC hosted three workshops between November 2023 and April 2024 in the Tahoe Basin, the Northern Sierra and Cascades (in partnership with the Siskiyou Climate Collaborative – thank you!), and the western slope of the Central Sierra. These workshops were intended to gather feedback from local governments, community-based organizations, and community members on three priority topics in the 2022 CARB Scoping Plan Update: building decarbonization, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and increasing zero-emission vehicle adoption. This feedback will also be used to inform the next Scoping Plan Update. Over 50 workshop attendees contributed feedback across the three subregional workshops. A summary of the recurring themes that came up in the workshop discussions follows:

  1. Current state definitions don’t account for rural differences, and the Scoping Plan doesn’t contain specific local actions designed for rural areas. There needs to be different policies/timelines/mandates for urban and rural regions. (An example is the low population exemption under SB 1232.)
  2. There needs to be more opportunities for unrestricted funding that meets an objective. Rural regions are motivated to meet these mandates and move towards carbon neutrality. Still, funding criteria, required actions, and reporting requirements can overwhelm small/low-population jurisdictions and not make practical sense. (For example, some state agencies allow unrestricted/less restricted use of funds for tribal entities. Similar models could be used for low-population jurisdictions.)
  3. Natural and working land carbon sequestration and storage should be considered and count towards emission reduction goals in communities actively committing funds and workforce towards forest and vegetation management, maintaining conservation of natural and working lands, and avoiding emissions from high severity wildfires through landscape-level fire-adaptation. Methods for accounting for ecosystem services in the next Scoping Plan Update and crediting regions with emission reductions in natural and working lands are important to rural areas.
  4. Infrastructure issues remain a critical barrier to implementing building decarbonization and ZEV measures in rural regions. The patchwork of landownership and utility providers across the Sierra Nevada means various compliance, maintenance, reporting, and jurisdictional barriers to implementing new technology. Social infrastructure is also a barrier, there is limited to no existing workforce that can install and maintain electrification retrofits, EV charging stations, and EV maintenance. Workforce development, a pipeline to secure regional employment (new businesses and converting/training traditional contractors/plumbers/electricians/car mechanics/IT), and guaranteed employee housing are necessary for the region to meet these mandates.
  5. Local governments in rural regions have extremely low capacity with many government employees covering multiple roles (e.g., the City Planner is also head of Public Works). There is limited capacity to apply for competitive funding when the jurisdiction is unlikely to receive funds due to restrictive funding uses or eligibility requirements. This low capacity can also impact staff when funding has stringent reporting and monitoring requirements. More technical assistance and support with grant writing and reporting, and a “helpline” for general questions would be helpful.

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