Groups call for including schools in California's AB32 climate change plansNovember 17th, 2015
California is leading the charge in confronting the challenges associated with climate change. But will K-12 schools be left behind in the state's efforts? Education, health, environment, and green schools organizations are joining together to advocate that schools be included in the California Air Resources Board's implementation of the AB32 Global Warming Solutions Act and funding of greenhouse gas reduction projects across the state.
With 1 in 5 Californians spending their day at a K-12 school, schools can be a powerful sector in transforming community sustainability practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting children's health, and teaching climate and environmental literacy. The California State PTA and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued calls to action this year recognizing children's special vulnerabilities to climate change, such as heat-related illness, air pollution, and asthma.
California has set ambitious goals for sustainable communities, reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Yet, California cannot achieve its climate goals without the participation of the state's 10,300 public K-12 schools, which are responsible for about 8% of emissions. Investments in green, sustainable schools can generate substantial savings. For example, California Department of Education Green Ribbon School awardees like San Francisco Unified School District are exemplary models of integrated sustainability programs and are diverting upwards of 50% of their waste, reducing carbon footprints 10-30%, promoting transit and Safe Routes to Schools, creating green schoolyards and green infrastructure, conserving water and energy, saving scarce funds, and engaging students, teachers, and staff in hands-on sustainability education and behaviors that ripple throughout the community.
Yet, the California Air Resources Board's (ARB) proposed Three Year Investment Plan governing the allocations of the $1 billion cap-and-trade program's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund does little to support the development of sustainable schools - in fact they are excluded from nearly all of the grant programs. Without a more explicit role for schools included in the investment plan, the state will lose opportunities to invest in projects at schools such as:
- Urban forestry and tree planting to reduce heat island effect
- Replacement of asphalt with permeable surfaces to capture stormwater
- Cool roofs and other green infrastructure projects
- Creating green schoolyards and outdoor classrooms that enhance children's learning and health
- Waste reduction, recycling, and composting
- Integrated sustainable communities projects that include schools
The joint letter to ARB - signed by 28 education, health, environment, and green school organizations and individuals representing more than 1.6 million parents, students, school board members, and nearly all 1,000 school districts in California - calls for K-12 schools to be included in the Investment Plan to capture the many benefits of saving millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by schools. If you are interested in joining our efforts to support funding for green, sustainable schools, contact Deborah Moore of Green Schools Initiative at deborah_AT_greenschools_DOT_net.