Ensuring Community Co-Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation Policies in California

EPA Grant Number: FP917344
Title: Ensuring Community Co-Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation Policies in California
Investigators: Kersten, Ellen E
Institution: University of California - Berkeley , Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Human Health: Risk Assessment and Risk Management


This project examines the effects of smart growth and climate change mitigation policies and programs as they relate to environmental health and social equity priorities. It will evaluate and expand upon existing models and methods for vulnerability mapping and decision-making by creating a suite of metrics and evidence that account for cumulative environmental health impacts. It is guided by three complementary research questions: (1) How will land use and transportation policies and programs that intend to mitigate the effects of climate change affect communities differently? (2) What are the incentives and disincentives for communities to engage in local and regional land use and transportation planning? (3) How can climate change mitigation policies more effectively support environmental justice goals?


With a focus on California and a regional casestudy of the nine county San Francisco Bay Area, this research will be completed in four stages. First, the study will use geospatial data and methods to characterize neighborhood vulnerabilities and resilience to climate change. Second, the study will assess the relationship between neighborhood characterizations and areas targeted by smart growth, environmental justice and climate change mitigation programs. The third step will entail an indepth evaluation of the historical and current physical and social environmental context in six selected neighborhoods to groundtruth the assessments and relationships from stages two and three. Lastly, the study will revise the metrics as needed and disseminate the resulting neighborhood needs assessment measures to local and regional planning agencies and community-based organizations.

Expected Results:

This research will create scientifically valid, transparent metrics and methods for local and regional needs assessment to inform climate change mitigation policy priorities that address health disparities and environmental injustices. Given that there are limited resources to direct toward transportation and land use improvements, it is crucial for policy makers and community advocates to have the ability to ensure that resources are targeted to communities that could and should benefit most from focused interventions. The data, metrics, findings and policy recommendations from the four stages will be compiled and shared with state, regional and local agencies as well as community advocacy groups. They also will inform memos that will be submitted to agencies during periods of public comment on their planning and development processes.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

The neighborhood measures created and shared during this project will enable researchers, planners, policy makers and community advocates to better identify and understand the double burden of historically inequitable distribution of resources and current vulnerability to climate change impacts. They will help identify the neighborhoods that have the most to gain, and lose, from climate change mitigation strategies. It also will provide a much needed perspective and approach to public agencies and community advocates that are working to incorporate public health risk assessment and environmental justice into climate change mitigation policies and projections.

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental justice, GIS, cumulative impacts, climate change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final