With March 2024 federal deadline, NH will soon embark on climate plan outreach
This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.
New Hampshire was awarded $3 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding to update its climate change plan for the first time since 2009. Now, the state could be eligible for a share of $4.6 billion in additional competitive grants if it files a plan by next March.
The money, coming via the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, places a significant emphasis on public input – specifically from disadvantaged and underserved populations. The March deadline to submit a “priority” plan creates a “compressed time frame,” Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Robert Scott recently wrote to the Executive Council.
On Wednesday, the council approved a $264,145 contract with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center to assist in the outreach process, “as UNH is uniquely qualified and positioned to engage with and gather input from all communities throughout New Hampshire,” Scott wrote. He said the center has experience guiding decision-making by providing information to state agencies and boasts existing relationships with communities statewide. It operates the Granite State Poll, a monthly statewide scientific survey of public opinion on policy issues.
If New Hampshire makes the March 2024 deadline to submit its priority climate plan, Scott said, the state could utilize the additional funding for customer incentives for energy efficiency improvements to homes and buildings, vehicle electrification, and the implementation of the next generation of electrical grid technology.
The state will be expected to file a “comprehensive climate action plan” in 2025, as well.
But a lot has to come before that, said Roger Stephenson, Northeast regional advocacy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. In a recent email blast, he urged constituents to contact DES demanding they proactively remove barriers to public participation in the process. He said the agency should hold multiple meetings in every county, promote free child care, offer mileage stipends, and provide materials in both English and Spanish.
In an August blog post, Stephenson wrote, “Make no mistake: any new climate action plan must be a peoples’ climate plan. It cannot be a plan that reflects the opinions and interests of the powerful.”
The state must ensure working-class people and communities of color are able to access and leverage opportunities for input, he said.
Extreme heat can pose a significant problem for vulnerable populations in cities. Here, a public housing apartment building in Manchester. (Amanda Pirani | New Hampshire Bulletin)
According to the contract with the UNH Survey Center, there are plans to do much of that, including drawing on environmental justice principles and federal guidance from President Joe Biden’s Justice 40 Initiative.
The effort is expected to:
- Convene the authors of the 2009 climate plan
- Hold cohort-based learning exchange sessions for public engagement
- Gather a group of environmental justice community stakeholders and decision-making partners
- Build local cohorts among environmental justice communities that link with the nine regional planning commissions and 13 public health networks, among other partners
- Host activities to find out what underrepresented community members are seeing and what they want to see in terms of climate improvements
- Civic health mapping linked to environmental justice and climate
- Hold dialogue-based meetings with New Hampshire Listens and draw upon prior engagement work of the New Hampshire Center for Justice and Equity and the Carsey School of Public Policy’s Center for Impact Finance
The UNH Survey Center will also be expected to develop two standalone surveys of New Hampshire residents, as well as related questions on the monthly Granite State Poll.
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