D.C. Based Georgetown Climate Center Identifies a New Approach for Municipalities to Enhance the Competitiveness of Traditional Government Funding Awards
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the term "heat island" describes built-up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. For example, the annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4° F warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality and water quality.
Communities can take a number of common sense measures to reduce the effects of summertime heat islands. A good place to start is the EPA’s website at epa.gov/hiri. This site provides ideas for projects and programs that can make a difference in communities. Once a municipality or region has isolated one or more potential projects, the nonpartisan Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) in Washington, D.C. provides a resource base on ways that these initiatives can be funded.
State and local governments can now download an overview of existing federal programs that may recognize urban heat island mitigation as a project eligible for a grant award. Each program description includes ways that project designs can provide urban heat relief. This overlap allows local governments greater opportunities to receive more funding, even for their conventional improvement projects.
The GCC seeks to advance effective climate, energy and transportation policies in the United States; policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to climate change. The overheating of highly developed urbanized municipalities has been linked to a variety of public health hazards including heatstroke and respiratory disease. Highly developed, high dense communities typically lack adequate vegetation and yield large areas of paved surfaces. When combined, these conditions create surface temperatures that are significantly higher than those in surrounding areas.
The GCC compendium reviews 44 separate federal programs and is organized into five categories: Community Development, Energy, Environment, Public Health and Transportation. Each program overview includes a synopsis of regulations, guidelines, funding overview and size, contact information and information on program potential in urban heat relief, including supporting statutes. Although many funding program amounts and names are likely to change in the near future, this overview gives municipalities a framework to consider future projects and planning grants through a lens that also considers reducing the effects of urban heat islands.
As an example, a local government may already be considering funding opportunities for the planning, designing and or construction of an on and off-road trail for its pedestrians and bicycles. Under the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), this project is already eligible. However, if the municipality takes into consideration the planting of new shade trees, permeable pavement surfaces near existing roadways, or even streetscape improvements that demonstrate mitigation of future storm water runoff problems, the project becomes more competitive and the likelihood of an award increases.
Eligible federal programs identified include those administered by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Energy, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and EPA. The compendium encourages all applicants to consider integrating sustainable features like cool pavements, cool and or green roofs, urban forestry and heat island mitigation planning/training into their current project proposals. Adding this to an application may significantly increase a municipality’s likelihood to receive an award, while also increasing its environmental resilience.