As climate disasters hit state after state, fossil-fuel-funded members of Congress focus on a false choice between economic prosperity and fighting climate change. Meanwhile, politicians’ lip service to the devastating impact of climate change on communities of color adds insult to injury.
There is a better way: California has quietly pioneered a new approach that should be adopted nationwide.
We know, because we helped make it happen.
The program is called Transformative Climate Communities. TCC uses climate action to build prosperous and thriving communities, focusing on neighborhoods with the biggest environmental and economic challenges. And, unlike most government programs, it empowers the communities themselves to lead.
In Stockton, California, like many communities, the legacy of environmental racism lingers. Latinx, Black and Asian American neighborhoods were devastated by a crosstown freeway that split communities and added to the pollution from heavy industry and the Port of Stockton. Historic disinvestment left the area with deteriorating infrastructure, poverty and unemployment.
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That’s typical, thanks to the legacy of redlining — policies that segregated communities of color and deprived them of financial investment.
Government programs aimed at addressing these issues have generally been too small, too fragmented, and imposed top-down on communities. Transformative Climate Communities does nearly everything differently.
TCC funds communities to develop neighborhood-scale climate plans based on priorities set by the residents themselves. Its structure builds in deep, ongoing community leadership — with government supporting, not dictating. TCC then provides implementation grants to make those dreams real.
Whereas governments usually put energy, transportation and housing policy in their own siloes, TCC creates holistic, connected plans that link these and other elements together.
TCC also requires projects to create good-paying jobs and economic opportunities for residents, plus an anti-displacement strategy so residents can reap the benefits without getting pushed out.
When The Greenlining Institute recently analyzed the impact of Transformative Climate Communities, the program’s potential to change the entire climate discussion became clear: It can move us toward our climate goals while empowering communities to build a healthy, thriving future based on their own priorities. TCC should be replicated on a national scale.
We don’t have to choose between protecting our climate and building prosperity in communities too often neglected by the government. We know how to do both.
If we truly want to build back better, Transformative Climate Communities has shown us how. Congress should take notes.
Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, is special adviser for economic mobility and opportunity to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Debra Gore-Mann is president and CEO of The Greenlining Institute.