“The climate crisis doesn’t care if you are in a red or blue state. It is an existential threat. We have an obligation, not to ourselves, but to our children and grandchildren to confront it. I’m proud of how America at last is stepping up to the challenge… But there’s so much more to do. We have got to finish the job.”
President Biden used a significant chunk of his February 7 State of the Union speech to describe his administration’s major investments in clean energy and climate resilient infrastructure. At Climate Group we’re always glad to see climate included in federal announcements, but these words are doubly welcome considering the huge amount of work we do with US states to address the climate crisis.
As Secretariat of the Under2 Coalition we work with states and regions across the world – more than 160 of them – helping to drive collaborative climate action. In the US, a lot of that work is currently focused on helping our partners unlock federal funding. Last year brought a huge new opportunity through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) but, as one of our partners noted, “it’s like drinking water out of a firehose”. This is largely unchartered territory and the grant process is complicated. That’s where Climate Group comes in.
This week, thanks to our Green Recovery Alliance (GRA) program, Climate Group’s Senior Program Officer Gillian Ertel was able to meet representatives of the Northern Virginia Localities – also known as NOVA – in Washington DC. Here, with leaders from Arlington County, the City of Fairfax, Prince William County and our GRA partners, The Center for Climate Strategies, we looked in depth at the best ways to access federal funding in the region. It was inspiring to hear, in person, from sustainability experts who are working on the ground and know what needs to be done to meet the challenges we all face. Our networks are our strength and we have so much to learn from each other.
It's so easy too to forget the additional pressures Covid-19 has placed on states. Money that would otherwise have been allocated to environmental causes has been stretched to deal with more immediate crises. This problem remains and it’s why we set up the Green Recovery Alliance in the first place. Through this program we’ve been helping states access the federal funding they need to build back sustainably from the pandemic: to support the kind of recovery we know that people and places need.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of our Under2 Coalition programs globally and seeing it in action and in person in Washington was exciting. As experts discussed the incredible opportunities that exist - as well as the inevitable challenges - that come with accessing the first tranche of the IRA funding, the Green Recovery Alliance was on hand to offer meaningful support. Together, we explored ways to make progress on a wide variety of crucial issues, from green banks and solar panel funding to accessing the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, electric vehicle infrastructure and fleet electrification. We had open conversations on how to support consumer outreach, the training of contractors to best implement energy efficiency measures, different modes of payments and homeowner incentives. And we knew we could trust each other to have these conversations so that we could all learn and get the best possible results.
There will always be bureaucratic challenges for US states (and other states and regions around the world!) but to hear such enthusiasm for collaboration – whether it’s through Memorandums of Understanding on a Green Bank in Virginia, knowledge and education hubs or best practice for bulk buying solar components – gives fresh momentum to projects like the GRA. It goes to show that bringing states together can help inspire the change we need to build a better and more equitable future – for everyone. As the President said, America is rallying the world to meet its challenges head on. And states are rallying America.
Written by Rhiannon Williams, Senior Communications Manager for North America, Climate Group.