Addressing Climate Risk through Equitable Community Development


Wednesday, July 21, 2021


12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.


Climate Resilience

Climate change poses substantial risks to our economy, our financial system, and our communities. Low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to more frequent and severe climate shocks and stresses such as fires, floods, droughts, and extreme heat.

This virtual event on climate risk in the western United States explored the broad financial and economic impacts of climate change and how the community development field can take action to advance equitable climate adaptation and resilience.

Recording of Addressing Climate Risk through Equitable Community Development. July 21, 2021 (video, 1:36:45 hours).


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Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Hi, and welcome to today’s event, “Addressing Climate Risk through Equitable Community Development.” I’m Laura Choi, vice president of community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and it’s a pleasure to welcome all of you today here. At the San Francisco Fed, our mission is to promote a healthy stable economy. And that requires us to consider current and future risks, whether we have a direct influence on them or not. And climate change is one of those risks. And it’s no longer some distant threat off in the future. It’s already impacting us today. Just recently, we’ve seen devastating floods in Western Europe, record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest, Utah declared a state of emergency due to its ongoing drought, and wildfires here in the west coast are already on pace to outdo last year’s record-breaking season.

Our changing climate poses a significant risk to the economy and the financial system. But these risks also magnify existing inequities and they disproportionately burdened low-income communities and communities of color. As just one example, in community development, we’re familiar with redlining and how this racially discriminatory practice led to major gaps in home ownership and wealth creation. But the legacy of redlining is also creating climate-related disparities. Recent research shows that redline neighborhoods tend to have fewer street trees, more paved surfaces, and much hotter temperatures during the summer. This exposes residents to greater risk of heat related illness and death.

And as another example, we can think about the impact of wildfires on housing and small businesses. We’re seeing reports in the media of insurance companies pulling out of fire prone areas, which has major implications for homeowners, renters, and the entire small business ecosystem. So even though the topic of climate may feel like new territory for a lot of us in community development, it’s becoming clearer every day that these issues are intersecting with core community development topics, like affordable housing, household financial stability, and small business operations.

The field has an important opportunity to deepen its understanding of these issues and promote equitable climate resilience, meaning all communities have what they need to thrive and remain economically stable in the face of climate related events. Now, before we move on, I want to emphasize that the Federal Reserve does not set climate policy or make climate investments. And it does not engage in policy advocacy. The San Francisco Fed is focused on understanding climate risk as an economic issue in order to meet our mandate of stable prices and full employment. And in the context of community development, we want to ensure that all people are prepared for climate related risks, so they can fully participate in the economy. And we want to support all of you in the field, in building a shared understanding of how climate risk will impact the community development sector.

Our team here at the San Francisco Fed recently launched a survey to understand how CD practitioners in the Western United States are thinking about and preparing for climate change. And we’d love to hear from you. The survey is designed for anyone working on issues of poverty and economic inclusion, as we want to build a baseline understanding of how the entire CD sector is thinking about these issues. So we’ll drop that link into the chat and hope that we can hear directly from each of you. The survey will close at the end of the month and we’ll publish a report to share this information with the public.

And now turning to today’s event, we’re structuring the conversation around two main themes, climate risk and Equitable Resilience. First we’ll kick things off with a broad discussion on climate risk and its implications for the economy and the financial system. And then we’ll explore how the community development field can take action to advance equitable adaptation and resilience.

We’re going to save the audience questions for the second panel. So feel free to use the Q and a feature during the second half of the event. And I want to take a quick moment to thank our speakers and the entire committee development team here at the San Francisco Fed that made this event possible.

And now I’d like to invite our first two speakers to join the stage. Fernanda Nechio and Tom Cunningham. Fernanda Nechio is vice-president of sustainable growth in the economic research department at the San Francisco Fed. And most recently she served as deputy governor at the Central Bank of Brazil, where she led their climate change initiatives. Tom Cunningham is vice-president of environmental risk and the supervision and credit department here at the bank. And his team’s focus includes determining the financial resiliency of supervised financial institutions impacted by climate risks. You can read their full bios on the event webpage, but we’re going to jump right into the discussion on understanding climate risk.

So, and just a quick note, Tom is joining us by phone due to some video technical issues, but we’re delighted that we can still hear his voice and get his expertise into this conversation. So to kick things off, let’s start with the big picture and Fernanda, I’m going to turn it over to you and ask you to give us an overview on climate risk in the economy and how the San Francisco Fed is thinking about these issues.

Fernanda Nechio, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Sure. Thank you, Laura, for such a nice introduction. Can you hear me well?

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Can hear you Great!

Fernanda Nechio, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Awesome. So good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for, for participating on this event today. I’m planning to talk a little bit very briefly about two main things first, which is why climate risks are important for central banks as a whole, and in effect they are at the heart of central banks mandates. And I will also lay out the importance of research and quality data to better understand and face the challenges that we have ahead of us.

So first I would start by saying that my remarks reflect my own views and not those of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, but in many ways, I think my views are shaped by having participated on the efforts off the San Francisco Fed and the Fed system as a whole, and the Central Bank of Brazil as well in my previous employment. And having seen those effort in these two very different economies, I think gave me a nice perspective of the importance of this topic for central banks.

So turning to my first point, why is climate risk so important for central banks? Most central banks, modern central banks nowadays are committed or mandated to keep inflation low and stable. To do so, they conduct monetary policy based on current and future economic conditions. They look at inflation and inflation expectations, and therefore it’s really important for central banks to understand the underlying mechanisms that determine economic conditions. How agents respond to risks. What are the risks that are affecting our economy? In here, I’m talking about risks that are current and future as well, right? So the central banks, are looking to current conditions and future conditions, and follow closely, and try to understand the nature of shocks hitting the economy, undergoing changes to household preferences, consumer patterns, and changes to investment decisions.

So those changes are really important drivers of the economic conditions going forward. They’re important for labor markets and also they have impact on prices in the economy. In the past few years, on top of the increasing number of extreme climate related events that, Laura even mentioned to us some of them that were really recent, we have been seeing an increasing response of consumer businesses and investors as they adjust their preferences and behaviors. Adapting their consumption and investment patterns to respond to these risks related to climate conditions, right? So we are seeing climate shocks by themselves are becoming more frequent. And we are also seeing in surveys and studies that we see being developed all over the world, that consumers are more worried about it. Investors are talking about it, and this is impacting their investment decisions and businesses are changing their preferences and their investment decisions to try to mitigate and avoid or prepare for this climate related events.

So for central banks and here about central banks in general, to fulfill the mandate of keeping inflation low and stable, they have to stay ahead of the curve and understand these changes to shocks, and changes to how people respond to it. It’s really important to us to have a better perception of what is changing in the economy and where this economy is going to be ending up being, how different it is that it’s going to be later on in the future. So central banks, have to prepare for the transition, and they also have to prepare for what is the future and how the future is going to look like. We may talk about newer equilibrium as well, right? So we economists talk about equilibrium variables all the time. So some central banks also have mandates that are related to safeguarding the stability of the financial system.

And as climate related events are becoming more frequent, they may put the financial system at risk both directly and indirectly, and it is important as well for central banks to have such mandates associated with the stability of the financial system, to further understand and try to help me to gauge the impact of this risks going forward. So note that, because if we have direct effects of climate shocks, and we have these changes in people’s behavior, we really have as the core of the central banks mandate to understand what has happened to the economy. So it is in our, in for us to better correspond to our mandates, we need to better grasp where we are heading to and how climate risk is affecting our economy.

So one of the main challenges I would say, actually in trying to do that in this better understanding is that we still have to bridge some data gaps. We have to collect more data, run different surveys as we have been doing, and talk a lot to people. So this engagement, I think, I think it’s really key for us to learn more about the process that we are going to. And in addition, climate risk is a global phenomenon. It is not something that is hitting on only our area or the west. So having a p communication with international community is really important as well, right? And what do we do with this data that we’re collecting? Well we do research. So in the same way that we use research, to serve as a baseline basically, to conducting monetary policy, we can use research on climate risk to guide our understanding and possible responses in the future and currently as well, right? So breaching this data gaps in fostering excellence in academic research is very important for all central banks to face what we are going to see ahead.

With that in mind, and then I turn to my last point because I think I’m going for too long here. I get excited about this topic. With that in mind, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is convening the best academic thinking on the topic. We are hosting conferences, sponsoring seminars, we are talking to a lot of international players, and we are talking to players that are domestic in our region and across the United States as well. And we also have assembled that research team to study how these issues are likely to impact central banks mandates in the future. So the team we allow central banks and us to prepare for, and respond to the challenges and uncertainties that are that lie ahead of us. We are committed to collaborating with the Federal Reserve Banks and the board, and we are participating on several forums in developing strategies to lower our carbon footprint. So I think my final point is that our efforts are involving the whole bank. It’s not something that it’s only research or supervision, but it’s across all areas and the bank. And also, in an effort to jointly contribute to the discussion across the Federal Reserve System. I’m sure that Tom is going to talk way more about the regulatory perspective…

Let him speak a little bit. Thank you.

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

That’s great. Thanks Fernanda. And I appreciate that point because I think as we’re seeing climate change impacts pretty much everything. And so it makes sense that we would need this kind of integrative collaborative response because it can’t just live in one group, one department, one institution, one country. It’s really going to take all hands on deck, so I appreciate that.

So Tom, I want to shift the conversation over to you. And Fernanda did such a nice job kind of framing the impacts of climate risks to the economy overall, and how we think about the macro economy. Can you give us your thoughts on how climate risk is impacting the financial system and particularly through your lens working in bank supervision?

Tom Cunningham, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Yeah, absolutely. Laura can, can everyone hear me?

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Can hear you great.

Tom Cunningham, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Great. Thank you. And I apologize for the technical issues that we’re experiencing here. Have been experiencing a comedy of errors this morning, but I won’t bore you with the details. But obviously it’s fantastic to be here today to talk about this to add to Fernanda’s perspective on this topic, which is extremely important to think about this from a holistic perspective and from a supervisory perspective. I’ll provide a couple of points that we’re focused on and we’ll focus on the first question we normally get is “why is this important to supervision and regulation?” And I think Fernanda kind of outlined the issues that we’re talking about, with respect to how climate change and risks are manifesting across the economy, across communities, across the financial sector. It’s all these components of how our countries and the global system are impacted by this topic as well. So it’s a question of how to frame it.

So I’ll quote, governor Brainard from or one of her recent speeches where she stated that “supervisors have responsibility to ensure that financial institutions are resilient to all material risks, including those related to climate change both currently and into the future. So it was essential that financial institutions in the financial sector as a whole are resilient and prepared for the challenges of climate change.” So we think of climate risks within the broad set of just all material risks as well. So we don’t think this is controversial from a supervisor perspective, because this is just something that’s known. It’s observed. It’s something that the institutions themselves are addressing. So from a supervisory perspective, we try to understand what these risks are and how to address them from both a policy perspective and also from just a safety and soundness perspective, but also for consumer compliance, which I’ll touch on in a little bit as well.

So we’re going to be talking about a lot about resiliency and being resilient today. So I guess in looking at resiliency, I Googled the question, like “how do you define this?” So it’s the ability to overcome and withstand challenges and difficulties and to recover. And I think the recover part is where I think we want to make sure that we have enough emphasis on that part of it. We focused a long time about being resilient to withstand challenges, to adapt to challenges, and the changes as well. We have to know that once we addressed that, we need to recover, and recover in a way that that does not disadvantage us going forward as well. So I think those are critical aspects of how we’re thinking about this topic.

So in terms of looking at climate risks, per se, and say, “how are they transmitted to the financial sector?” We start with categorizing climate risk into two broad categories. The first is physical risk and the second is transition risk. So physical risk, it relates to basically extreme weather events related to climate change. These are the wildfires we’re experiencing here in the 12th district. We have hurricanes, we have flooding, we have extreme heat, we have drought, and these are physical risks that can be both acute, meaning they’re event centric, and it can be chronic, being that they’re basically they occur over a period of a longer frequency, and they’re getting more concerning and happening with much more frequency. And the actual losses associated with these events are increasing as well.

So that’s the physical risk side. So from a bank perspective, this obviously impacts a lot of their assets in terms of their loans when they’re making loans to areas where collateral is most impacted by physical risks. For residential real estate, for commercial real estate. These are areas that are impacted that banks care about. Certainly, if they’re impacted by physical risk of climate change, then certainly there could be losses associated with them and disruption as well.

The second piece is transition risk. This is a broader risk that really relates to the progression or movement from high carbon intensive activities to lower carbon intensive activities. So I would say the best example for a transition risk is what we’re seeing currently in the auto sector with respect to commitments. To move from internal combustion engines, to a battery electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Think of this under a new construct where the original equipment manufacturers are looking for a complete transition to this new paradigm within anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

So you can only imagine what that would cost the economy. The global auto sector is a multi-billion dollar sector. It employees hundreds of thousands of individuals, it impacts the supply chain with respect to supporting the auto sector too. So when you start to actually add up the actual impact to the economy, the impact to consumers and to sectors and industries is just so significant. So you can imagine this massive transition that’s occurring, and that’s just one example that’s happening at this stage as well.

So when you look at these, both these risks, physical and transition risks, they’re interrelated to one another. For example, the faster the industries or sectors move to a lower carbon-based model will increase transition risk, certainly, but it will potentially lower physical risk. Correct, right? So, and if you don’t actually have a lot of transition risk occurring, then your physical risk will increase because you’ll still have high carbon intensive activities and the greenhouse gas emissions related to that, which increases physical risk as well. So you have to look at these two risks as interrelated to one another. Think of it as like a balancing on a scale as well.

So, and when we look at these risks, now, the question is “how do we translate them from a supervisor perspective?” So we look at these basically in terms of how they transmit into the bank’s balance sheets, income statements, and their business models. And we consider these risks to be what we’re calling transversal risks or cross cutting risks, meaning that we take the physical and the transition risk, and then we convert them into credit risk, into liquidity risk, market risk, operational, strategic and compliance risk as well. These are the typical banking risk designations that supervisors focus on and look at and assess when we do our examinations as well. So obviously multiple challenge, which we are facing currently and trying to address. The biggest challenge we have is as Fernanda talked about is the data. We’re seeing that we certainly have collected a lot of information in data with respect to actually identifying and measuring these risks too, but we’ve identified a lot of gaps that just require additional research and analysis to complete those gaps.

We also have the issue of timing. Typically, under a regulatory supervisory framework, we look at quarters or within one to two years, but the time horizon within climate risk is in years and decades. So it’s more difficult to assess and to actually quantify the impact when you’re looking at such a larger time horizon as well. So ultimately, when you add up all these components, you have a lot of potential vulnerabilities. Fernanda talked about the future. I think obviously we’re looking at that again, what do we need to go forward to protect the resiliency of the financial institutions we supervise? And we have to look at these events and connect the dots to the best extent possible

So now we discussed why we are interested, and now what are we doing? So we have the construct. And I’ll talk quickly about this. And I think as Fernanda, I also get excited about this topic and want to keep discussing it. But I think we have some questions to address as well. So what are we doing? We are addressing this from two broad lenses. The first is what we’re calling our microprudential supervisory lens. Microprudential looks at basically the safety and soundness of a financial institution. And we’re making sure that these institutions are resilient to climate related financial risk, as well. So that’s under a micro prudential lens. And we’re also looking at things from a macroprudential lens. This is where our financial stability lens comes into play, where we’re looking at basically perspective is that the connections between climate risks, to markets, financial exposures, and the interconnections between markets and financial institutions to address systemic vulnerabilities.

So we actually have two system committees focused on the micro and the macroprudential side as well. And so we, we think they’re certainly interrelated to one another, and the micro certainly will impact the macro perspective from a supervisory view as well. We’re also spending a lot of time working in the international community. We have a direct role within the Basel committee of banking supervision, and the task force on climate related financial risks. That’s co-chaired by Kevin Stiroh. We also have our FSB or Financial Stability Board role, that is chaired by Vice Chair Quarles. The FSB is focusing on climate disclosures and data gaps and information. And lastly, we recently joined the network for greening the financial system (NGFS). This is also affectionately known as the NGFS. This is a collection of central banks that basically are the coalition of the willing, to address issues related to climate risks across the globe as well. So we’re very excited to be a part of these international efforts as well.

Within each of these areas, what we’re doing right now is listening and learning. We’re having a dialogue like today, engagement with the industry, and engagement with research and analysis to help frame policy options for our principals, which could potentially result in adjustments to supervisory programs and / or considerations for monetary policies. So today’s events are critical to help us gather a wealth of information. And while my view is safety and soundness, I view this topic more holistically. I think that it’d be an error on our parts to focus just on looking at the bank’s balance sheets and safety and capital expectations, without understanding the impact that our banks were having with respect to the communities they serve as well. So I think, again, these discussions, again, are very helpful for us to help frame these from a policy perspective.

So that’s kind of the lens from the supervisor perspective as well. So I look forward to some questions, I think Laura might have for us, and I’ll turn it back to you.

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

That’s great. Thanks so much, Tom. And your ending point, I think was a great transition into what I want to pivot the conversation. So both of you laid out the really big picture perspective of climate risk and its impacts to the economy and the financial system. And I want to drill down into thinking more specifically about implications for low-income communities. So Fernanda, I’m going to turn it back to you. As I mentioned, you had spent time as the Deputy Governor at the Central Bank of Brazil, where you led their climate change efforts. And I’m wondering if you can share with us what you learned from that experience, particularly as we think about distributional impacts for low-income communities.

Fernanda Nechio, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Sure. First, it was a great honor for me to actually put together and help push forward the Sustainability efforts in the Central Bank of Brazil. The agenda there was composed of many measures but all of them, I think have important common ingredients that are kind of common across central banks and go into your question more directly. A lot of the agenda over there and as we are talking about this here are based on open discussions with the financial system, with people and people in communities, and trying to understand how differently they have, are being, they are being affected and how they are responding to it already. And this is true for households and businesses alike, right? So a lot of the putting together the initiatives that the central bank of Brazil did, and I saw it a lot of the other central banks as well is in putting a lot of effort in this engagement and better understanding of the, what the issues are.

And we know from research that different communities are going to be impacted differently and the issues are going to be different. And probably the way to respond is going to be different across different areas of the country in different countries and so on. So I think in terms of the common ingredients that I’ve seen, a lot of the effort involves having this p connection with international community. We can learn a lot from what are- How they are responding and learning from what their communities are going through, not only ours. Engaging, educating, and exploring is key to develop the right strategy for different areas of the US and different communities here.

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

That’s great. Thank you. And I appreciate the point about not only are the conditions going to be different, but the responses will need to be different given the very diverse kind of challenges that different communities are going to be facing. Tom, I want to turn it back to you. You had started to talk about some of the convergence of climate risk with some consumer compliance issues. So I wanted to dig a little bit deeper there and get your insight into how, how you’re thinking about consumer compliance Community Reinvestment Act issues in relationship to climate risk.

Tom Cunningham, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Yeah. No, thank you, Laura. And yeah, I’ll frame that by, I didn’t mention that in the beginning too, when I talked about the micro-prudential and the macro-prudential sides. So within the micro-prudential lens they were looking at this topic as well. We’re also bringing in perspectives from our Division of Consumer Credit Affairs or DCCA, because we think that is a part of our, our framework in terms of addressing this topic and issue. So our DCCA colleagues obviously focus on consumer compliance and so bringing their expertise in and the dialogue that they’re having with their stakeholders is extremely important within our micro-prudential lens that ultimately could also roll into our macro-prudential side too. So I think from a framework perspective, we’re getting the perspective there.

I’ve actually thought about this in different perspectives, I guess. From a CRA perspective, obviously we’re operating under our current modernization objective program as well. We issued an ANPR, obviously in October of 2020 with comments closed in February, 2021. We did ask the question within the NPR about what actions should be taken to promote climate resilience within the financial sector as well, too. So now, unfortunately, given the fact that we’re kind of in the period after comments closing, I can’t speak to this topic, or if I did, I would have to basically interview everybody on this call and record that information. So I’ll pause, and just say that, I think from a CRA perspective, the good news is that certainly the topic of climate resilience is certainly going to be hopefully within the discussion for CRA and as part of the modernization objectives with that as well. So I’m cautiously optimistic there will be some component going forward. So that’s on the CRA.

I did ask also if there’s actually specific consumer regs and rules and laws that really can be directed towards climate risk per se. And I would say that they’re mostly indirect, I would say. And I think that the emphasis that we’re taking within the Federal Reserve is we’re looking at it from the standpoint of resiliency and how the banking sector can promote that resiliency to the communities. So this could be examples of a disaster relief or in periods of stress that the community is facing either acute or chronic. How does the banking sector respond to that in terms of extending financial relief, assisting in perhaps waving fees. We just experienced a significant disruption with the pandemic in terms of activities that banks have acted with forbearance as well. So that needs to be part of, I guess, the menu of activities that are basically directed to address this.

The other question is just in general emergency responses in terms of the agility to respond to the demand that the communities are expecting from their financial institutions, and to support them and how to do that. So these are areas I think we’re going to be focusing on. I’m also looking at, in terms of what tools or products can be offered. I give examples where if you have an apartment owner or someone who wants to modernize their building from weatherization programs, or to install solar panels, etc. that these are areas that perhaps there could be programs and opportunities for our banks to support those activities, or at least to provide technical training in these areas as well. So I think there’s a lot of solutions that I would think I would like to have our banks put time and effort in, and I’m having discussions with their bankers about this. So I know they’re thinking about it. So I think as part of the Fed and our role is to provide forums and venues such as this to actually, to see how we can actually make this happen as well.

So I think again, I’m, I think at the end of the day from a safety and soundness perspective, as a regulator, if a bank makes a decision based on what they view as climate risk, acute climate risk, to start to remove capital from a particular sector or industry, I would say that they’re only halfway there. They need to understand the impact of that decision they’re making in a broader lens as well, too. So I think this needs to be a win-win and not a win-lose from my perspective. So I think from a regulatory perspective, we need to actually have that part of the discussion as we evaluate potential policy path and options going forward as well. So anyway, there’s some additional thoughts forwarded for that.

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

That’s great. Thanks for that, Tom. Fernando, earlier you had mentioned some of the expansive economic research that the Fed has been hosting these seminars, trying to get a sense of what the research community is learning. Can you share some of the findings from the emerging research on climate risk that you think would be most relevant to the Community Development sector? So around issues like housing affordability or impacts for small businesses or transition risk for workers. Any of those kinds of issues, I’d love to hear what you’re learning.

Fernanda Nechio, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Sure. Well, first of all, there is a lot of research being done at the moment, looking at exactly these questions. As I mentioned in my initial remarks, data is being collected and being analyzed as well, right. But I can share some of the academic findings that have been popping up recently. And of course, everything is under construction, I would say. So we will, we’re going to be learning a lot more from that field, I think in the near future. But most notably, I think we, we have seen that there is a lot of diversity on the impact that different communities and different countries can have from a climate related events, right? It’s possible and some research have shown that poor countries and neighborhoods could be possibly, could become more vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures and disasters such as flooding and wildfires.

Some research has also show them how colder places versus warmer places can be adapting differently. But for both colder and warmer regions, they’re going to be impacted, these events are going to be impacting migration patterns, housing markets and types of sectors that can completely disappear- specific region because of these shocks that are leading the economy. So I think we can have some serious consequences for particular regions. And there is a lot of research, as I said, going exactly at this point. One particularly important point here is that I mentioned about data collection. It’s really important that we have some per efforts on trying to make our readings off the data somehow standardized or comparable across different countries, areas and so on. So this is something that I think there is a lot of effort going on right now. And that’s what is going to allow us to use experience and past events to learn about what is going on in the future.

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

That’s great. Thank you. So we’re just about out of time for this panel. I want to just really thank and acknowledge Fernanda and Tom for not only joining us today, but just the incredible work that you’re leading on behalf of the San Francisco Fed. Just really thank you for everything that you’ve done. So at this point again, thank you for spending your time with us. I’m going to transition and hand things over to my colleague, Lizzy Mattiuzzi who’s going to take over the next panel on talking about Community Development solutions for equitable resilience and adaptation.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Great. Thanks, Laura. I’m Lizzy Mattiuzzi and I’m a senior researcher on the Community Development team here at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. So as we heard from the previous panel, climate change is creating risks for communities, businesses and financial institutions across the Western US. And these risks are particularly acute for communities that already face barriers to economic participation and financial stability. So the Community Development team here at the SF Fed is focused on understanding the risks that communities in the Western US face due to climate change and to helping Community Development professionals understand those risks, as well as what other communities are doing to address them.

In fact, we have a survey in the field right now asking you, Community Development professionals, what you’re seeing on the ground around these issues. I believe the survey link is in the chat. We encourage you to take it and share it with your colleague. It takes about 10 minutes. But in the meantime, our next panel will be sharing their experience working with low-income communities and communities of color on climate adaptation, resilience and emergency response at the local and regional levels. You can submit and upvote questions in the Q and A function on Zoom, and we will turn to those questions. Hopefully save a bit of time for that after the panel.

So now I’d like to introduce our panelists whose full bios you can read on our event website. Alvaro Sanchez is Vice President of Policy at The Greenlining Institute, a national nonprofit based in Oakland, California. Carol Gore is President and CEO of the Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Wilma Wooten is the Public Health Officer and Director of Public Health Services at the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. And Dr. Ladd Keith is Assistant Professor of Planning and Chair of the Sustainable Built Environments program at the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Arizona. So thank you all for joining us. And first I’d like to ask each panelist to share a little bit about how climate risk affects the communities that they serve. So I’ll start with you Alvaro. You work at the intersection of environmental and equity issues. So what do you see, why do you see climate adaptation and resilience as racial and economic equity issues in the communities that you work in?

Alvaro Sanchez, The Greenlining Institute:

Hi, everyone. My name is Alvaro Sanchez and thank you so much for inviting me to share some of my work with all of you. And as you mentioned, we work at the intersection of climate and economic equities. And the reality is that for us as an organization, we are confronting the fact that in the United States we are addressing a long legacy of injustice that has baked in poverty and pollution in predominantly low-income communities of color. So the reason why low-income communities of color are both where polluting facilities usually are located and where climate change is being felt first and worst. It’s not because of their own choosing, but rather because of a long series of policy decisions that have baked into these factors in their communities.

So going all the way back to the genocide of native population, to slavery, to Chinese exclusion, to Japanese interment, to redlining, to Jim Crow laws, to urban renewal, to the foreclosure crisis, and even to today’s COVID pandemic and economic crisis. These are the result of multiple series of decisions that were carried out by government, institutionalized by the private and public sector. And sometimes really, negative, brutally implemented by law enforcement. So the reason why we take this approach around focusing on both racial and economic justice in the way that we address climate resilience is because all of this is intractably interconnected. Like all of these pieces fit together. And if we just focus singularly on addressing the climate impact that these communities are facing without also addressing the other multiple issues that these communities are facing, their vulnerability will never really truly be addressed.

And as we have seen with the COVID crisis, it doesn’t matter that if you are able to afford moving away from the crisis. If other people in our ecosystem are suffering from something as severe as a global pandemic, it drags everyone down, right? Like our economy gets dragged down, our population gets dragged down, our health gets drugged down. So for us, it’s really important to focus on the people that are most vulnerable and address them with comprehensive holistic solutions to their vulnerability so that we can all be more resilient to climate change or other shocks that our economy and our people face. So that’s why we focus so much on those intersections.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thanks, Alvaro. Turning to Carol. Can you tell us a little bit about what kinds of climate related risks that low-income communities and communities of color are facing in Alaska?

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority:

And so this is a switch to that Arctic area. I would just start by saying, I’m going to focus on rural and remote Alaska in my discussion here. I want to be clear that I am not an expert. I’m not living that experience, but I know people in communities that are. What I would say to start with is we are absolutely in the midst of a climate risk. It’s a crisis for us, but we’ve known this was coming for generations because our elders told us it was coming. So it’s not a surprise to us, but we’re living it today. If you think about our Arctic villages are built on frozen tundra, a bit of soil suspended in ice that today we’re calling melting soil. They’re facing this melting permafrost, erosion and flooding that’s leading to relocation of entire villages that results in health, social and safety issues that lead to overcrowding and an inadequate supply of housing.

Alternatively, families may be forced to move to another village. And that in-migration puts pressure on other communities. I’d say for generations, our Alaska native people have lived in villages where they rely on subsistence hunting to support their way of life. This way of life determines their social structure, reflects their community values and provides their food. Relocation may lead to the loss of that culture and that subsistence lifestyle that’s critical to our indigenous people. And shrinking ice makes it even more difficult to safely continue hunting the bowhead whale, as an example, upon the North Slope.

There’s a housing, I’m sorry, a Statewide Threat Assessment that was conducted by a collection of organizations really led by mostly tribal villages and a lot of organizations here. That assessment tells us there are 144 Alaska native communities, literally 43% of our communities in the state that are facing some degree of infrastructure damage from erosion, flooding and permafrost fall. I give you an example. The Yupik village of Newtok is the first community in Alaska that was forced to relocate due to climate change. They literally had to move down river and across which might sound relatively simple, but it wasn’t. Navigating the numerous federal programs, only two of which were designed to respond to relocation, and securing that funding was the community’s biggest challenge. It took them nine years to move one third of that village.

I’d say finally, for us, the size of the problem is just simply overwhelming. The same study estimated we would need $3.45 billion over the next 50 years to just protect those existing villages. That’s not the relocation costs. It’s just to protect them in place. I think what frustrated me as I sit as maybe an observer for my people, I read something that I want to share. Despite spending 2.4 billion in federal funding to invest in climate science research annually, almost none of that research has benefited the communities who are on the front line of climate change as research is not typically accessible, understandable, or downsized enough to be useful. And if there is federal funding, the size of Alaska’s problem and the small size of our communities, as in very small populations, maybe, in Newtok’s case, it was 28 families. It makes it difficult to compete for those very resources that are intended to help.

I would just close by saying, I’m very worried. So my work is located in Anchorage, Alaska, which is probably our largest urban center in Alaska. We’re seeing that in migration and a lack of preparedness they have to move from a subsistence lifestyle to an urban lifestyle. I’m very concerned about the loss of their culture and their way of life. We see the elders in particular who are moving for medical care, and it’s clear that adjustment means they’ve left most of their family and their life behind them. Those are the kinds of social things I see firsthand in my work and the things that I think matter most to this conversation about climate risk.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thank you, Carol, turning to you, Wilma. How are climate change risks affecting low-income communities and communities of color in San Diego County where you work?

Wilma Wooten, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency:

Well, thank you, Elizabeth, for having me today. San Diego has been involved in climate change activities, working in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health for about six years now. And early on through a CalBRACE project, which I’ll explain later, a vulnerability assessment study was conducted not only for San Diego County, but for other counties throughout the state. And specifically for San Diego County, and I’m sure this is relevant for other states as well, heat and wildfire where the two, were two of the greatest vulnerabilities facing our communities in San Diego County. And this certainly is relevant for those lower income communities. These events cause damage to property and also have an impact on health and wellness of individuals.

So we understand this to be an economic and a racial equity issue, because simply put, the more resources someone has, the better able they are able to secure shelter or purchase an air conditioner to combat extreme heat, heat incidents. So the vulnerability study actually showed, again, heat and wildfires where the greatest risk vulnerabilities, but individuals that were also highly impacted if they did not have air condition, if they lived in communities that did not have a lot of tree canopy or lived in communities that had a lot of impervious surfaces, i.e. concrete jungles or surfaces that don’t allow water to soak down into the soil. So we all know that those poorest communities are going to have less of these resources.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thank you, Wilma. So having heard a little bit about extreme heat, I want to turn to you Ladd. Can you tell us a little bit more about your work and how researchers are looking at extreme heat in relation to climate change and as a racial and economic equity issue?

Ladd Keith, University of Arizona:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Lizzie. It’s great to be on the panel with the other panelists. So yeah, extreme heat has an increasing and very underestimated climate risk. And we’ve seen it be an increasing climate risk, both due to climate change, of course. And then also the urban heat island effect, which Wilma was just referring to where the way that we build and plan our cities and operate them with waste heat, make certain areas hotter than the surrounding natural countryside. And that heat severity isn’t equally distributed within cities too. So heat’s the number one weather related killer in the United States, but you don’t see as much news about it in the United States, but you don’t see as much news about it normally compared to things like hurricanes or wildfires. I think the Pacific Northwest heatwave was an example of maybe a little bit more awareness coming to heat as a risk in the country. But even that I would say was a mass casualty event. And if you saw the same number of deaths from a hurricane, certainly the media’s attention would have been on that longer if it happened in Florida and if it was a more traditional kind of climate disaster, like a hurricane. So even despite the growing awareness, I think we’re still underestimating how deadly and impactful heat actually is. The impacts of heat vary differently across the United States, with some regions being more heat adapted of course, than others. The Southwest has more indoor cooling than the Pacific Northwest and other regions, which leads to certain outcomes for particularly vulnerable populations.

And then of course heat compounds other climate risks and we’ve heard already from the panelists about wildfire and droughts and things like that. And for some families, they have to make that choice between opening their windows at nights, to get a little relief from the heat. But then if they open the windows and there’s wildfire smoke, like there’s over most of the west coast right now, then they have lower air quality. Those are the same populations that suffer from asthma and breathing conditions too. So we’re really seeing kind of compounding climate effects across the board. So heat is a huge equity concern. Recent research has really demonstrated that heat severity, like I mentioned, is inequitably distributed across cities and so there’s evidence that red lined neighborhoods are still a hotter than their wealthier and whiter counterparts. And those same rules apply to lower income neighborhoods, minority neighborhoods, kind of a whole slew of papers have come out kind of continually proving that.

But I’d say more broadly, we need to think about heat equity, more broadly than just heat severity in the city. And it connects to issues like access to healthcare, the quality of people’s homes and their affordability of homes. Some whether they have access to indoor cooling, whether they can afford reliable energy for indoor cooling. So all of those issues become very interconnected. The types of working conditions that people have, if you’re lucky enough to have an indoor office job and a nice building, you’re not going to feel a heat wave in the same way that someone that’s an outdoor worker or a warehouse worker or a laborer is going to feel. And so I think the occupational portion of this is really important too.

And then finally, cities are starting to do more for heat, which I’ll talk about later, but a big question is are those that are most impacted by heat risks, really able to participate in their local democracy or national democracy. And do they really have a voice on the strategies that are kind of being planned for them. And often as we know, that’s not the case where lower income or minority or marginalized communities are able to participate in democracy the same way. So that’s a big concern as well.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thank you Ladd. So next I’d like to give each of our panelists a chance to dive a little bit deeper into their work on climate risk. I’ll start with you Alvaro again. What have you learned from your work on equitable climate resilience in Stockton, California, and elsewhere about connecting local and regional scales and building partnerships across sectors?

Alvaro Sanchez, The Greenlining Institute:

Yeah, I mean we’ve learned a lot over the last several years working with communities like Stockton. And I think one of the things that we’ve learned during this work is that it’s really difficult. We were practicing new ways of doing things, out of necessity and also out of a recognition again, that these communities like Ladd said, are really at a disadvantage to be able to genuinely participate in the transformation that is required to address climate risks. And again, it’s just because we have done it so supportively over the years. So one of the things that we’re learning and I want to highlight this program that operates in California called the Transformative Climate Communities Program. It’s a program that Greenlining helped to create, and it funds community led development and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental health and economic benefits in California’s most disadvantaged communities.

The reason why we promoted this program is because we believe that it would empower communities most impacted by pollution to choose their community vision, strategies, and projects to enact transformative change. Now, this program has been implemented throughout California and several different communities. And what we’re learning is that the governance structure that’s required to allow the partnerships that are necessary at the local and regional scale to do this work, need a lot of work. We basically haven’t done this work in the way that I think is necessary to actually include the most impacted in the decision making process for what we need to do. We haven’t really done that work very well, but we are learning that number one, one of the things that we really need to build out in all communities is we need to have more resilient and per community anchors.

Carol was describing kind of migration of populations due to climate risk. We see that in California, migration of folks due to climate risk, but also through gentrification and displacement. So that really erodes the sense of community and the community institution, who need to be actually really plugged in to this process in order to make it work. Otherwise, you are left with people making decisions for other people that are not really reflective of that community that is being most impacted by this work. So as a state, I’m going to speak to California. We really need to invest in more community infrastructure in solidifying the community anchors that can genuinely participate in this work and be able to be meaningful partners in doing this versus just the check the box engagement kind of process, which is what we tend to see the most.

Second is that government needs to be very supportive of a new approach of doing this work and I think government has been for a long time, really trained to do work in a certain kind of way that is not conducive to allowing more community participation and ownership over this process. So government just needs to be more supportive. We were, and I want to really shout out Mayor Tubbs in Stockton for allowing government to play that role in Stockton and allow their local stakeholders to actually really participate in meaningful ways in that process, which I think made a whole… such a big difference in what happened there. If we did not have that kind of supportive government entity, I don’t think we would have been able to be successful at the work that we’ve done in Stockton, which as of this year resulted in about $26 million in community investment grants from the state for them to invest in a five square mile area in south Stockton. So it really delivers. And then the last thing that I’ll mention, is then what we are learning is that we need to have comprehensive technical assistance intermediaries. So because this work is newer and because it requires so much study and interdisciplinary skills, a lot of these communities are under resourced enough that they don’t have the technical expertise, the academic expertise, the financial know-how. We need someone to help come and put together a package and really a proposal for investment that these communities can see reflected in their needs and priorities, but we need that tool chest and somebody who has that tool chest to be able to bring it to some of these communities, to be able to solidify the folks that are working on this. So those three components, p community anchors, supportive local government and robust technical assistance, I think is critical to allow any of this to take place in communities most impacted.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Yeah it sounds like to support that kind of inclusive governance, you need those TA partners and those anchor institutions on the ground for the long term. And of course you have the advantage of cap and trade dollars in California, but those governance lessons are true anywhere. Carol, I want to turn back to you. Can you share a little bit more about the ongoing work and partnerships in Alaska that are trying to address the need to relocate some of these homes and villages.

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority:

I’d be happy to, I love this part of the session here and Alvaro, I really appreciated what you said about making sure that people in these communities have a seat at the table. I think that is so critical to us really building the right plan of program. I would start Lizzie by saying, you can tell I’m an Alaskan and Alaska is unique in a lot of ways and not just size, but also our lack of connectivity. We don’t have a road system that traditionally connects all of us. We have a river and a water system, and sometimes they’re active in the summer, but they’re used in a different way in the winter. So our ability to connect is very, very different. I think that’s made us a very resilient people and we’ve been adapting for thousands of years here.

I know firsthand because of where my mom grew up, that in a village working together is just simply in our DNA. Everyone matters, and everyone is essential. We know everyone and we take care of each other. I think that’s an incredibly important foundational piece to the work that we have in front of us. We know federal funding is critical to our state, but despite that federal investment, we’re a state that is always scrapped for inadequate resources. The large size of our need and a scarcity of resources has resulted in a lot more collaborative models. I think that’s our silver lining. It’s a natural occurring collaboration that is much like how we get things done in a village.

So I’m going to give you just a couple of examples. I’ve had the pleasure for the last 20 years of serving a Tribally Designated Housing Entity. I’m one of 14 regional housing entities that serve the entire state. These tribal housing entities work within a regional geography to leverage both capacity and resources for all of our communities, from the smallest village to our urban areas. These regional housing entities are first responders for overcrowding and village relocations, literally climate change is in front of us and in our communities. We describe these regional models as umbrella organizations that give tribes self-determination to decide their own housing priorities. A second example, it’s really important to us, is our Indian Health Service. We have a hospital that is located in Anchorage, but it’s a consortium model where all tribes have representation on the governance board. Because of this collaboration, our people have access to a world-class healthcare system. Addressing climate change brings these communities to gather with this healthcare consortium, because this consortium is also the developer of our water and sewer infrastructure in rural Alaska. This healthcare consortium, along with our regional tribal housing entities, together with state organizations like Cold Climate Housing Research, Department of Community and Regional Affairs, the Denali Commission, and others are coming together with communities.

This brings federal funders like HUD and the Department of Health Services and others to provide funding that is at least aligned within their housing and healthcare functions. To us, this means we’re bringing local organizations and people to the table to work together with communities to help attract the right investments. I can’t tell you how much that has mattered. Alvaro, you talked a lot about capacity. I have a p belief in the capacity that already exists in our villages. What they’re not accustomed to is dealing with things like complex applications, and that’s where they need the technical assistance. They may not even have an awareness. They don’t have broadband connectivity. They lack those basics, but what they bring to the table is so much more important. So having them take the lead in these discussions and in these partnerships has been critical to us.

I love that it feels very local to me. That each community has a seat at the table in a very p way. And we work, I think in our political system based on invitation, being invited to the table. That’s a critical piece of allowing self-determination to do what it’s fully intended to do and allow each community to work and build that consortium, if you will, that they need for their own climate change that they’re seeing every day. Thanks, Lizzie. I so appreciate this opportunity.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Yeah and it sounds like the convener there might not have climate in the name. It can be a healthcare organization or just someone who has the capacity and the experience, and maybe kind of the bully pulpit to bring other partners and bring funding to bear. So I want to turn to you Wilma, you’ve been a leader in regional implementation of the CalBRACE program, the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects program that you mentioned in San Diego. Can you tell us a little bit about CalBRACE and any other ways that the San Diego County Department of Public Health is collaborating with their local and regional partners on managing extreme heat risks?

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority:

Sure. CalBRACE is actually a model after a CDC program called BRACE, which as you stated, is Building Resilience Against Climate Effects and the state’s version, which is CalBRACE started in about 2015 and the state actually provided a modest amount of funding just under $10,000. About 11 counties in the state were funded to implement climate change activities. Well, the BRACE model is composed of five elements. The first is forecasting climate impacts and assessing vulnerabilities and I shared with you what the San Diego vulnerability assessment revealed. The second component is projecting the disease burden. And in San Diego, we have identified all of our partners and what each is doing and working collaboratively with them.

We have a website that talks about the health impacts of climate change, specifically extreme heat, leading to wildfires, which cause difficulty breathing or has an impact on people with cardiovascular disease. And so wildfires will impact the air quality, but also extreme heat also impacts our a vector-borne illnesses like Zika, or Dengue, or Chikungunya. You may recall in 2015… 2016, we had people that were traveling and coming back to our counties with Zika. So again, all of those elements, looking at the burden of disease, we documented that the third component is assessing our public health intervention. So that’s why for me, it was very important to find out what our other partners were doing. And we have actually eight state and local partners and then we partner with our land use and environment group where a lot of our environmental programs are housed. And the fourth component is developing and implementing a climate and health adaptation plan. And we are in the throws now of developing our local San Diego plan.

We work with the state right before COVID started to develop a template that all counties could use. So we are currently finalizing that so that we can develop an implementation plan with our local community partners to address the needs and issues of San Diego. And then last is evaluating the impact and improving quality of activities. There is a San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative that our county is a member of, along with the numerous other partners. Additional partners include the American lung Association and California Department of Public Health, our California Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the National Weather Service and the Pala Band of Mission Indians, as well as Scripps Institution of Oceanography. So those are some of our state and local partners. And then we, again, work very closely with the Department of Environmental Health and Quality within the Land Use and Environmental Group. And many of the activities we are working on include the Climate Change Action Plan.

We are now the lead for Community Gardens, which is a priority by our board of supervisors and the Environmental Justice Element, which is led by Planning and Development Services. That is also a board of supervisors priority. So we have about 18 different projects that we are working on, either funded or non-funded. So there’s a lot of work and activity going on in San Diego with our community partners. Our health equity lead… we have an office of Health Equity, and we changed that to the office of Health Equity and Climate Change. And that staff person is now going around and giving presentations on climate change to the general community. So that is what we’re currently doing. And we’re finalizing our adaptation plan, and then the next step would be really to work collaboratively with community partners to develop a regional implementation plan.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thank you. And now turning to you, Ladd. What have you learned from your work in Arizona about what kinds of partnerships can help reduce risks created by extreme heat for low-income communities and communities of color. In particular, how can community development practitioners break down silos and encourage collaboration and what are the planning and governance opportunities here?

Ladd Keith, University of Arizona:

Yeah. Thank you, Lizzie. So I’ve done national surveys and interviews with decision makers and cities kind of across the United States of all sizes and pf different regions to really kind of tackle this heat governance question. And when I say governance, I don’t just mean governments, which is kind of often the assumption, but also the private sector non-governmental organizations, university researchers, some grassroots organizations and individuals. So, and really looking holistically at how the decision-making process is structured and how it happens. And what we found is with a survey that we did of a national survey of planners across the United States, 80% of those planners said that their communities had already been impacted in some way by extreme heat.

And again, this is across all regions and was before this summers record breaking big waves, but kind of compare that to 2016 review that had been done that found that only 4% of climate adaptation resources specifically even mentioned heat. And even though it’s improved a little bit in the last five years, I would still say, if you look at any kind of national op-eds or opinion pieces or even statements put out sometimes by the administration, they usually focuses on climate like wildfire and sea level rise and flooding, if you’re lucky. Drought and extreme heat are usually left off the table with that.

So heat governance in general is just much less developed than our governance of other climate risks. An example of that is communities are often held to standards to make sure that they don’t develop in flood prone areas so they have the backing of FEMA Floodplain maps and Floodplain insurance plays into that. And we have really no comparable kind of national infrastructure related to how we even think about cities related to heat.

So kind of one idea that we’re trying to develop and get communities to think about more is the idea of holistic urban heat resilience. And so really looking at both the chronic and acute aspects of heat. And so when I say chronic, I’m mean just that general kind of the temperatures rising. There’s just people that always have, again, poor housing quality, lack indoor air conditioning. Whether or not it’s an extreme heat event, they’re always kind of exposed to this chronic heat issue and that’s getting worse over time, of course. And then for the acute heat risk, of course, I’m talking about extreme heat events like the Pacific Northwest heat waves again. And so really communities look at those separately right now, and we really need to think more holistically about dealing with both of them at the same time.

So one bucket of strategies is heat mitigation, and that’s to look at how we can reduce heat that’s increased by the built environment and by again, the waste heat from things like vehicles and air conditioning and the disciplined really involved in that area are urban planning, hazard mitigation planning, anyone involved in kind of real estate development or financing.

And then kind of separated in a completely different silo, we have the heat management side, which is looking at responding and preparing for those extreme heat events. And that’s really the domain of public health and emergency management. And again, the problem right now is we’re not talking between those two big silos and we’re not even talking really very well within those silos, between the disciplines. And cities kind of look at responding to an extreme heat wave as one thing that they should do, but they don’t often consider that holistically with reducing the heat in the built environment too. And I would say one thing that gives me a little bit concerned is that there is a tendency to want to view heat like we do view a hurricane and kind of view it only as a risk, that’s the acute risk and only care about it when there’s an extreme heat event that gets the media’s attention.

And again, the problem with that is, well if we go that route and we pay more attention to this extreme heat events will really bring up even more inequality and equity issues. Because again, it’s those communities that don’t have the quality of housing, indoor air conditioning, kind of the workplace regulations that keep them safe, or even like the quality of their schools of their children, all of that sort of stuff. And so really, we have to think about both the chronic and acute aspects of heat risk. And so one thing I’ve seen work… is starting to happen at least, is Miami-Dade county now has a Chief Heat Officer that got a lot of press. So that was the country’s kind of first dedicated staff person to heat, which I mean, again, we have entire… almost every community in the United States has a floodplain management department.

We have one dedicated staff person for heat in the United States. And I don’t mean to belittle, there’s obviously other folks dedicated public servants who consider heat and make it a very important part of their job. But this is really the first example of someone whose sole job is dedicated to extreme heat. City of Phoenix after that, kind of concurrently also passed a budget to create an office of heat management in response. And so I think those are good movements in the right direction, but again, those are two of the largest, kind of wealthiest cities in the country. And I would say, we have to think about all of the rest of the cities too, because that’s two out of 14,000 different communities in the United States. So, it’s a good move in the right direction, but we have such a far way to go with it.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Yeah. It sounds like with both your work Wilma and Ladd, there’s a certain amount of raising awareness of an issue that only comes up when there’s an extreme event, but it is also sort of one of these climate stressors. Is up when there’s an extreme event, but it is also sort of one of these climate stressors where there, it might be a 95-degree day instead of 110 degree day that’s causing stress and also breaking down those silos. And sounds like that’s already starting to happen a little bit.

I want to make sure we have a few minutes for questions. So if you haven’t already, please go ahead and add your questions to the Q and A and upvote others. I want to do a quick lightning round first with the speakers and just if there’s any other advice that you think community development practitioners can take away from your experience with any of these issues around governance, breaking down silos, getting these things funded, models that you’ve seen that are useful. So we’ll just go around quickly starting with Alvero.

Alvaro Sanchez, The Greenlining Institute:

Yeah. Absolutely. Community development practitioners are critical to doing all this work. And one of the things that we’ve noticed, even again, state of California, a good amount of funding that’s available to make investment, and through some of our advocacy, make investments targeted at the most disadvantaged community, those sorts of things, communities that don’t have the infrastructure in place to absorb that money. So, we are lacking kind of that infrastructure of folks that are able to actually get these big grants. So, we have developers who develop housing. But who’s developing parks and who’s developing the climate resilience center? Who’s developing the EV car share program? Who’s developing the urban canopy that’s actually going to prevent some of this heat exposure?

We need folks who are actually able to help community pursue resources, but also implement them. So, the state of California has strict requirements about who they can give those monies to. And sometimes those are not found in community. So community developers are definitely a critical piece here. Their expertise is really needed. Their history being able to work with this money really needed, but more so their understanding and partnership with local stakeholders so that it doesn’t feel like just someone parachuting in and doing the work, but rather a real collaborative effort to, of course, being able to do that. And I think community developers are… I think they could fill that void.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thanks. And Carol, what are your biggest takeaways?

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority:

I really want to elevate two things, very, very briefly. I think those who are living the climate change experience are the true subject matter experts. So before we mine the data, we do more studies, we should ask those who are actually experiencing climate change to identify their priorities, to help align the right resources. There’s a true lack of alignment between what is the real meat of a community and where the resources are pegged. Here’s my second point. So I laughed because I know an Alaskan elder who described researchers and funders as UFO’s. What he said and what he meant was with the best of intentions too often the criteria for funding doesn’t fit the problem. So we’re left to either adapt to fit or not apply at all. Asking those who are experiencing climate change to identify their priorities will help to align and bundle the right capacity and resources. We should not arrive thinking we know the answers and we know what they need. We need to treat them with respect and work with them. We need to be ready to listen, and we need to be ready to take action and not just study and plan. I say that because I feel, and I see the crisis we are already in here in Alaska. But those are the two points I would make, Lizzie. Thank you so much.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thanks Carol. And Wilma, what would be your takeaways for policymakers or community development practitioners listening?

Wilma Wooten, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency:

Well, I think there are two sides of the coin here. What can we do proactively to provide resources, to increase green spaces, parks, and also to communicate with disparate communities in their language? We have a partner relay program between public health and the office of emergency services that when there is a disaster, which a wildfire or extreme heat situation could be, we provide them with information, they translate it, and push it out. That’s being responsive to an issue, but being proactive to help decrease some of the issues that we see is also needed.

In San Diego, we have an extreme heat taskforce. Again, that’s responsive. When there is an incident, various county and external partners come together to push out information, open cool zones, as well as set up call-in stations where people can call and get information if they need it. Now proactively, increasing the number of locations where people can go. And also many people don’t have transportation, so providing those transportation services so they can go to a cool zone if they don’t have air conditioners of their own. So again, my takeaway is to encourage policymakers to think of ideas that are preventive, but also provide support for those response efforts that are needed during extreme heat conditions.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thank you. And so Lad, I think I’ll ask you the same question of what your takeaways are, but I’ll… It fits nicely. I’ll jump into the first audience question, which is how can we make heat mitigation efforts more equitable and how can we make heat a priority?

Ladd Keith, University of Arizona:

Yes. So, I think that helping overcome the challenge of just framing heat as a concern, and I think webinars like this are a part of that process. But certainly raising awareness and getting those stories out when those key events do happen or chronic heat issues, and really starting to attribute some of those impacts from heat to heat, I think would be one way to raise awareness on it.

At the local level, I would say what I’ve seen a lot for is, again, in governance broadly, whether it’s the public sector or private sector, because heat is relatively a new climate risk that people are kind of just starting to think about. In many cases, they’re kind of waiting for the perfect information to be delivered to them before they act. And I think that’s a huge mistake because while heat is complex, no perfect information exists for any climate risk or any way that we make decisions in the government.

And so I think we know enough about the fundamentals of heat and who’s affected that we can start doing positive things and taking action today. And certainly those tools and decision-making resources will improve over time. I hope. But don’t wait for researchers or the federal government to kind of provide you the perfect information because we need to start planning today for it.

I think the other thing again is just think holistically about urban resilience, both again, that mitigation side and the management side. And don’t separate it out in between extreme heat events versus kind of chronic heat.

And I think this point’s been made by all the panelists, but certainly the best way to make it equitable is to actually engage the communities that you’re trying to help in the decision-making processes. And the things that you think might help them may or may not be the strategies that they actually need to help them. And so I’ve seen kind of time and time, again, like indoor cooling programs that are trying to provide subsidies to families or weatherization programs and they miss target what the family’s actual needs are for the housing quality. And so I think just getting their voices in the process to make sure that the resources and the efforts that you’re putting forward are actually going to help them in the way that you think they will.

I’ll mention an example. Just coordinating existing efforts is really important too. And I think there are, there’s probably more than people think is going on, heat related in their own communities. It’s probably just not being coordinated very well. And obviously coordination is a huge task in and of itself. But here in Arizona, we have an annual Arizona heat planning workshop that kind of spans disciplines, spans different public sector, private sector, and it’s a place for us to get together for one day to kind of talk about where we’re at with our heat goals, kind of what’s happened and what’s coming up. And then we actually have now biweekly virtual calls with that same group of folks, just to make sure that we’re coordinating between faith-based community providers that do things like cooling centers and the public health sector. It’s just been a really great effort to kind of bridge some of those disciplinary divides. I mean, I know everyone’s time is limited, but I think even having an annual kind of gathering to see where people are adding to get people on the same page can be really helpful.

And then finally just have to acknowledge, again, our national capacity and ability to plan for heat is virtually not there. And so we do have federal agencies doing really important things. So NOAA specifically, CDC is doing a lot, EPA has a heat island program, but they’re largely doing those separately. And they’re very much hamstrung by permissions that they’re given by Congress and kind of, their agency missions. And so, I think we need some federal agency help to bridge those divides and, and to engage other federal agencies because heat also impacts housing, impacts transportation systems, impacts national security. So I think a more cohesive national strategy for heat would be very welcome too. And again, that would really help out those communities that I mentioned before, the smaller communities and the rural communities that barely have one planner let alone someone that they can dedicate specifically to heat. And so I think any kind of resources that we can provide to those smaller towns and communities that are going to experience heat also would be really helpful.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Thanks. And Wilma, I want to give you a crack at that question too, about are there any ways that you see to make heat mitigation efforts more equitable or more of a priority? What are the barriers to folks, to local jurisdictions, making their own heat mitigation plan? Is it, is it just funding, or what’s holding people up from doing this?

Wilma Wooten, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency:

Well, I think as with all major issues, it goes back to the root causes. And poverty being a root cause. If people don’t have air conditions, don’t have transportation to go to cooling zones, the whole weatherization of their homes. So as we build new spaces, whether they’re rental or permanent or homes for home ownership, thinking about how can those facilities be or accommodate the changing times that we have with extreme heat. But also the root cause is getting people educated so that they can earn a higher living wage. And so it really goes back to those root causes, I believe.

I mean, and we can’t, and there’s no one solution. We really have to look at all levels and try to move all of those aspects with our community partners because county government can’t do it. City government can’t do it. It really has to be done through public/private partnerships and then getting our federal government as well as our state governments to think about what funding sources can they provide to address all of these issues. From a greening space, solar, our energy, all of the elements that we know are the best practices that help to decrease our response to extreme heat, heat events.

But also on the flip side, you have to look at where people are and what are their resources and provide them additional resources to help address their individual needs by doing what the last speaker said. Going to them, asking them what are your needs, as well as taking into effect the best practices that we know are working.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

There’s one more audience question that’s about a process like, as you guys have been saying, how do we include people? How do we get people’s input? Someone wants to know, can we do that going through traditional planning processes, can we create space for residents to talk about their needs and their feelings about climate related risk? Or are we talking about a different process here? And I’ll open that up to anyone who wants to take it?

Wilma Wooten, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency:

Well, I’ll start. This is Wilma Wooten in San Diego.

I think absolutely. When we are thinking of rolling out new programs or projects, it’s important to get the community’s voice. Also, there are other programs that also tries to do that, at least here in San Diego. We have a program called resident leadership academy, where individuals from a given community, working with a specific community-based organization, come together and they have at least 10 to 12 sessions. And we’ve had them specifically just on climate change. Many of these individuals come out to become leaders in their community. Some of the resident leadership academies prior participants is now the mayor of Lemon Grove, or they’ve gone on to be selected as… They’ve ran for, not superintendents, but a school board member positions. So having those type of events or programs that helps to build the confidence and helps to build leaders really in their given communities, I think is really important. That type of program can not only address climate change, but other issues that exist in a given community.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

So, go ahead, Alvero.

Alvaro Sanchez, The Greenlining Institute:

Yeah. I just maybe wanted to chime in here because I’m a planner by education. I went to planning school and really was looking forward to doing that work. And what I would say is that our practices in government and in the private sector need to evolve to meet the moment of the racial awakening I think that we have been experiencing over the last year. We’re not there. You know, I think we do need an evolution in our practices. And I want to really emphasize it’s the practice of equity, where we are not, where we have to be. We can’t just say we commit to equity, but then go back to the same practices that we employ pre that commitment because that’s literally what got us to this place. So I really always state the fact that if we are committing to an equity outcome, that means that our practices need to change, not just our language and not just our commitment, but literally how we do our jobs.

And I worry that in the last year, there’s been a lot of commitment to equity, but not enough change in practices. And I think that that’s where I really want to emphasize. And the thing really quick thing that I mentioned to our planners and all community development people: conduct an internal equity assessment of where you are at as an organization before you think about how you’re going to engage with the community that you’re going to engage with. Cause that is going to let you know how far away you may be in being able to actually speak their language. Sometimes literally being able to speak their language. But the makeup of your organization might not reflect at all the makeup of the community that you want to go and engage with. And I think you need to learn that before you go about the project of engaging with community because I think you have to meet them where they’re at. And I worry that our practices are not quite there and that we sometimes with good intentions want to go out and engage community, but we are not equipped with the tools to do that effectively.

So I can spend a whole other session talking about this. But I do think that our practices have to evolve to meet the moment that I think where we want to go. And I don’t think we’re there yet. And I think we have a lot of work to do on that front.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Well, and I’ll just throw in there on this topic of connecting with communities, there’s getting community outreach and there’s also points that Carol and others have touched on of breaking down the research and making it accessible to people. So if any of you have any sort of closing comments on that kind of two-way connection and making the research more accessible, as well as getting better community input.

Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing Authority:

Lizzie, if I could just jump in and just offer a couple of comments on your previous question. What we say is Alaska is far enough away that we don’t see many people from Washington DC come to visit communities that take a jet, a small plane, a boat, the right bus, the right closing to really get to these communities. So there’s a lack of understanding, and there’s a lot of assumptions that we need to turn into knowledge.

Sometimes the data doesn’t create the story. And in my native culture, story’s everything. We need to use the data to create the right story. We also need to bring the right people to these communities who are willing to listen and not bring what they believe, but come to actually listen and build a common understanding. I think there’s a secret sauce to that. And sometimes we make it overly complex, but… What’s that term we use? A picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, I’ll tell you in-person’s worth a million words and in-person is where it’s at for me and in a community. If you haven’t been there, you have no right to talk about it or to develop solutions about them. I just wanted to get that on the table, but I feel very, very ply about that here in Alaska.

Ladd Keith, University of Arizona:

I’ll go Lizzie. One, I mean, one thing that’s really important to, especially for something like heat, that it’s kind of complex. You can’t see it. So that’s hard to kind of visualize. And this goes for a lot of other climate risks too, but frame it in ways that people actually understand and care about it, I think is really important. And so if you ask anyone in Tucson does extreme heat impact their life, they’ll look at you and probably laugh because it’s always hot here and it’s just something that you’ve learned to live with. But if you frame it in ways like do you have to walk your dog at 11 o’clock at night because there was a heat wave and it wasn’t safe for you to go out? Or did your kids have to stay inside their school for a week because it wasn’t safe for them to go on the playground? Were you not able to use public transportation because it was too hot at the bus stop.

If you connect it to what people actually care about and kind of drop the climate specific language, a lot of times you get much more. You connect it to their values and people will suddenly realize that it does impact their life and they do care about it. So I think kind of from a climate change professional standpoint, from my standpoint, flip it around to what people actually care about. And I would say the same thing. People don’t necessarily think about the economy or their jobs being connected to heat or other climate impacts, but when you connect those dots for them and they can kind of see that it actually is impacting their quality of life and their ability to do their job, particularly education, I think you can make a lot more leeway with them.

Elizabeth Mattiuzzi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco:

Well, I want to thank all of our panelists for joining us and for our audience for joining us today as well. We encourage you to share your feedback with us about this event. There’s a one-minute survey that should have landed in your inbox along with our 10-minute climate survey where hopefully we connect to people’s values and not just climate lingo. So, I appreciate all of you for joining us and for your time. And thanks so much.