What we’re learning from Climate Benefits for California

Ryan Wiggins Headshot

Eight months ago, Climate Benefits for California started as a 10 minute conversation about how great it would be to map out all of the investments from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) – (now the California Climate Investments Program, or CCIP). Since then, we’ve spent countless hours designing the site ClimateBenefitsCA.org, poring through agency funding guidelines, applications, project data, and talking to people who are directly benefitting from these investments.

Now that we’ve officially launched the site in beta form, we have a moment to take a step back and share with you all that we’ve learned in the process - and where we want to go from here.

The challenge of mapping projects 

One of our primary goals in creating ClimateBenefitsCA.org is to give people an easy way to understand the positive impact of climate investments in their legislative districts, county, region, and the state as a whole. But deciding how to represent projects on the map was not an easy task.

The CCIP is made up of nearly 20 funding programs that are administered by more than a dozen state agencies. Each program funds a wide variety of projects ranging from transit lines, housing development, water and energy efficiency, forestry, freight, and electric vehicles, just to name a few. Most of the projects are not in one location, but can pass through multiple jurisdictions or spread across a large area (this is especially the case with a transit line or a reforestation project).

Because each state agency has created its own procedures and processes for the information it requires from applicants, we have had to estimate the geographies of projects on the map as accurately as possible.

Moving forward, all the state agencies will have a mandate requiring applicants to provide the exact geographic location of a project. This will eliminate much of the estimating that we have done and give everyone a more transparent understanding of where projects are happening and where their benefits are being felt.

Data gaps will remain for quite some time

While we are excited to provide details on what projects are being funded, how much is being invested, and where those projects are, our vision is to go much further. Our ultimate goal is to show true on-the-ground benefits from the CCIP. This includes not only greenhouse gas reductions but also more tangible benefits like more people being able to ride public transportation transit, safely walk or bike in their neighborhood, and find an affordable place to live, as well as fewer instances of asthma and other health problems caused by pollution.  

But data for the funded projects comes in fits and starts as agencies work hard to get them off the ground. It has been incredibly challenging for all of these agencies to create and administer these new programs, and as a result there is no central repository for collecting it. This makes it difficult to make all of the data available for public consumption, so there are a lot of projects with incomplete information. TransForm will continue to fill these information gaps as more data becomes available.

Thankfully, the state is moving towards a central collection point for all of the data that will be more standard and uniform. This will enable us to more quickly and easily upload this data to the map.

Where we want to go

Addressing the issues above (and others that will surely crop up) will take some time. But in the meantime, we will continue to improve and refine ClimateBenefitsCA.org. In addition to its utility in growing awareness of the impacts of CCIP investment, we envision it as a tool to create more partnerships and collaboration statewide in support of the CCIP.

Moving forward, one of the state’s goals is to more effectively promote transformational and integrated projects. What does this mean? Imagine everyone being able to live near transit in a home that is affordable, energy efficient, and close to a park, child care, and grocery stores, in a neighborhood with safe streets for biking and walking. These types of projects are the ones that will reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and provide long-lasting economic, health, and environmental benefits for people throughout California.

On one hand, ClimateBenefitsCA.org will function as a clearinghouse for information on the best and most innovative projects. Potential applicants can use it as an entry point to learn what the CCIP has funded, and create their own projects from what they learn. They can even reach out directly to those project developers to connect and create new partnerships.

On the other hand, we hope this site will spur the state to more aggressively pursue transparency and move to comprehensively collect and report the impacts of all projects. This is a very heavy lift for the state and while we appreciate the difficulty of this task for all of the agencies involved, we also know that attention and scrutiny is often one of the most important ingredients to improving performance.

More than numbers and facts

We recognize that project numbers and information alone won’t be able to effectively show the incredible impacts many of these projects will have on our economy, our environment, and our quality of life. That’s why we look forward to working closely with other allies who are telling stories of the people and communities behind these investments. The Greenlining Institute and UpLiftCA are already telling stories about families who are getting jobs, saving money, and seeing changes in their lives from the CCIP.  We’ll be sharing these stories in our online story bank.

But we can’t do all this alone

We welcome your feedback and ask for your collaboration to strengthen our efforts.

First, we invite your feedback on ClimateBenefitsCA.org while we move it out of beta stage. Second, we’d love to hear the on-the-ground stories of people in these communities and work with you to spread their powerful message. To share your ideas and stories with us, please send an email to rwiggins@transformca.org.  

Finally, the overarching goal of our site is to strengthen California’s climate program. This means passing SB 350 and SB 32, which will set ambitious goals for reducing GHGs in 2030 and 2050 by 40% and 80% respectively. It also means inspiring other states and countries to follow California’s lead and establish their own program (or link theirs to ours).

So please, visit ClimateBenefitsCA.org and reach out to us with your ideas so we can move it and the climate movement ahead.

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.