New toolkit aims to help minority mayors gain equitable access to climate change funding

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More green energy upgrades could be coming to your city.

Local leaders are eligible for federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act for these projects. Now there’s also a nationwide effort to help African American mayors get equitable access to those dollars.

As energy bills soar, the city of Atlanta is working on a weatherization program. City staff say it targets neighborhoods with older homes and residents who may be low-income, seniors and renters.

“These are neighborhoods that have been under-invested and historically marginalized,” said Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer for the city of Atlanta.

The city wants to use money from the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal grants along with suggestions from a new toolkit.

“To reduce these mountain energy burdens is to go in and fix the houses and make sure our residents have access opportunities to fix the housing, but also be to directly connect to utility program offerings,” said Farley.

This Toolkit for Local Climate Action was created by a climate startup called Elemental Excelerator and designed by Elemental Policy Lab fellow Heather McTeer Toney.

Now they’re partnering with the African American Mayors Association to help provide more equitable access.

“Getting resources to frontline communities and communities that are impacted heavily with climate change and at the same time, marrying it with business innovation,” said, Heather McTeer Toney.

The toolkit focuses on energy efficiency, energy supply and transportation. It offers a series of suggestions like improving energy efficiency in public buildings and buying electric police cars.

Toney said some mayors already have plans in mind for climate projects, but they need help navigating the grant application process.

“We can say all day that we have resources that are available to help cities create strategic plans and access federal funding, but if there’s no one in the office to push the buttons to make it happen, then it’s an opportunity that goes missed,” said Toney.

Clean tech leaders say going green could also address health problems.

“Black community and LatinX community, we have the highest rates of chronic asthma of all communities in America and part of that is because of the air pollution that we breathe in every day,” said Donnel Baird, Founder and CEO of BlocPower. “So how can we use the lessons in this toolkit to help us address some of the root causes in our community.”

The Inflation Reduction Act also has benefits for individuals. This includes tax credits to buy new and used electric vehicles.