I’ve been watching world leaders from 195 countries for two weeks as they try to agree upon a framework for a safe and livable global climate. I scroll through press releases praying that the deal will be ambitious in reducing global emissions, and that support will be given to those most impacted by global changes—often women, low-income people, and people in developing regions of the world.
But right now, Redding, my mind is on you, and what climate change is already doing to you while our leaders talk. It breaks my heart to watch the bathtub rings steal our lakes. It makes me sick when summer wildfire smoke gets so thick it isn’t safe to go outside. And of course as droughts, fires and floods become increasingly common, economies are forced to go through challenging transitions. Food prices become more volatile. Emergency resources are spread more thinly. Incomes drop as tourism and agriculture suffer.
Homelessness increases from local climate hardships and economic crashes, and from the climate refugees that must flee their low-lying cities. These challenges and changes will hit hardest rural communities struggling with poverty. Climate change and its reverberating social and economic impacts will not be kind to Redding.
And this is what they’re saying: First, in the words of the Mayor of Bristol, “Local governments get the job done while nations talk.” Regardless of what comes out of this international climate negotiation, towns will be the ones that must deal with droughts, wildfires, and floods. And towns are also the ones taking the lead in driving economic growth through community-controlled distribution of clean energy.
Second, funding and resources are available for smart towns with smart plans to adapt to the changing climate. But for towns to get the investment and institutional support they need in order to create and implement those smart plans, they need recognition and visibility.
Redding is already generating ideas and programs to cope with drought, create jobs, improve services for our homeless, address crime, and prevent wildfires. We can acquire the resources we need to build on these ideas, and make Redding a safer, healthier city in the face of rapidly changing global conditions.
Local government networks like ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and C40 are helping towns leverage resources to create communities that lead the world in finding energy supplies that will remain reliable and safe in coming years, keeping our homes warm and our businesses running as fossil fuels taper out of the scene. These networks can connect us to resources that will support our development of a cohesive, integrated plan that views our drought, wildfires, energy security, local economy, homelessness and poverty, and crime rate as interconnected problems that deserve interconnected, long-term solutions.
Through engagement with local government platforms, we can lean on the work that others want to share with us. (For instance, check out the “Resilience Resource Point” at resilient-cities.iclei.org.) These platforms can help build our capacity to craft forward-thinking, well-packaged projects. And they’ll help Redding become more visible and able attract the investments, businesses, and funding that will make our plans actionable. Whether through green bonds, state-sponsored funding, public-private-partnerships, grants, or direct investments, we can get the resources we need to build a safer, stronger community.
I hear it from mayor after mayor all day long: Participating in these networks to increase visibility and build integrated projects that can be advertised to financers is key to attracting the resources needed to build safe, resilient towns. Redding deserves to be resilient.
Soon, I’ll say good-bye to the winding, cobbled streets of Paris, and the winding, convoluted paths of the international climate negotiations. I’ll ring in the new year with you, Redding – may it be one filled with hope and action toward a safe and thriving community. I look forward to coming home.
Yari Greaney is a graduate of Manzanita, Sequoia and Shasta High.