White House Recognizes Oberlin as Climate Action Champion

Posted by Ben Jones on December 9, 2014 in Community

The White House announced today that Oberlin is one of 16 local governments selected as the inaugural Climate Action Champions, a new initiative administered by the Department of Energy (DOE) that recognizes local governments that have taken proactive steps to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the effects of climate change and extreme weather. Oberlin was chosen as part of a competitive application process screened by the DOE.

By addressing these two goals together—for instance, by installing renewable energy sources on buildings in order to provide a reliable energy source for emergency responders; installing energy-efficient windows that are also more storm-resistant; or leveraging innovative green infrastructure for carbon sequestration and flood protection—the Climate Action Champions will serve as a model for other communities to adopt clean energy strategies.

As a designated Climate Action Champion, Oberlin will have priority eligibility to apply for targeted federal funding and technical assistance. Other support may include climate data sets and tools that can help with decision making; opportunities to participate in climate change- and disaster-related training offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and an invitation to a peer network of communities that have experience with long-range planning to achieve environmental protection. The designation is expected to last 27 to 36 months.

Other Climate Action Champion communities announced include the city of Boston; Broward County, Florida; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and two tribal governments. Oberlin stands out as a small community that has built its programs from the ground up by leveraging resources with Oberlin College and other partners.

“We’re light-years ahead of other communities because of our energy portfolio,” says Sean Hayes, executive director of the Oberlin Project. Oberlin’s community-owned electric utility is on track to achieve 85 percent renewable energy sources in its portfolio in 2017, and Hayes says the city is on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, as measured in 2012, by 50 percent in 2015.

“I think what we’ve done with energy and the gains we’ve made in a three-year period are the most stunning,” Hayes says.

Renewable energy sources include landfill gas (55 percent), hydropower (24 percent), wind (3 percent), solar (3 percent), and market power (15 percent), which consists of contracts and joint ownership of electricity projects, explains Doug McMillan, energy services and sustainability initiatives manager for the city of Oberlin.

McMillan says the city’s climate action plan, created in 2011 and updated in 2013, along with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make Oberlin a natural climate leader.

The initiative is part of the Obama administration’s broader agenda to combat climate change. In November, Obama made a historic joint announcement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. Obama has also pledged a $3 billion U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund, an international fund to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change.

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Ben Jones graduated from Oberlin College in 1996 with majors in English and Environmental Studies, and returned in 2008 to lead the college's office of communications. He lives in Oberlin with his wife and two sons.

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Ben Jones
Ben Jones graduated from Oberlin College in 1996 with majors in English and Envi
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