Social Equity in California Climate Change Grants

California offers a variety of climate change grants that aim to both fight climate change and also create a variety of other benefits. These grant programs can improve air quality and community health, reduce consumers’ energy bills and create clean economy jobs. But far too often these programs fail to adequately reach the communities with the greatest needs, especially low-income communities of color. For that reason, Greenlining believes officials designing these climate change grants must make a conscious, thoughtful effort to embed social equity into all aspects of each program and grant-making process.

A comparison of CalEnviroScreen maps showing the most polluted and economically disadvantaged communities with maps showing communities of color illustrates the literally toxic effects of redlining and its aftermath. A concerted effort to embed social equity into climate change grants can help put large amounts of funding to work relieving these historical inequities and level the playing field for historically disadvantaged communities.

In this report, we provide a roadmap for embedding social equity into climate change grants, focusing on four key steps:

  1. The program’s Goals, Vision and Values should explicitly state the social equity goals of the grant program to help ensure these goals get prioritized.
  2. The program’s process should include working with partners who have social equity expertise and incorporate strategies for inclusive outreach and technical assistance.
  3. The implementation of climate change grants is critical. Staff must make sure that grant awardees have the resources and tools they need to get the greatest possible environmental and economic benefits and minimize unintended negative consequences. Programs should target community-identified needs.
  4. Finally, programs should analyze their impact, based on clearly defined social equity goals and criteria track success. This requires proactive planning to collect the date needed, so that administrators and officials can use the analysis to improve the program going forward and inform the design of future climate change grants.