Administration launches climate competition

The Obama administration launched a competition Wednesday aimed at helping cities and towns cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

The White House plans to pick up to 15 communities that have already taken steps to fight climate change and give them expert assistance to further the goals of reducing emissions and building resilience.

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Officials said the contest is meant to recognize the work of local and tribal leaders, who have very different tasks than the federal government in dealing with climate change.

“It’s a lot harder to ignore the impacts of climate change when your streets are flooding at high tide or your schools are closing because of record heat waves,” Obama adviser John Podesta said in a statement.

“That’s why we’ve already seen so many local leaders step up and lead ambitious efforts to deploy clean energy, boost energy efficiency, and build more resilient infrastructure and community systems,” he said.

The federal government will not award any funds as part of the initiative, which it’s calling the Climate Action Champions competition.

“The American people face climate change as a pressing challenge in the places where they live,” Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in the statement. “And helping tackle that pressing challenge is a fiscal imperative.”

Donovan said the administration is “encouraging communities to develop innovative and integrative practices to maximize the impact we get for every public and private dollar invested in places — whether or not it’s on the federal balance sheet.”

The Energy Department will administer the competition, but agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Interior Department will provide specific assistance to the communities.

It is part of Obama’s second-term climate push, focusing on efforts that the administration can do itself without the help of Congress.

The contest is unique in how it focuses simultaneously on cutting emissions and improving resilience, the White House said.

Specifically, participating communities will get climate data and tools from various federal agencies to help write projections and make planning decisions.

They’ll also be able to participate in a federally organized peer group of communities fighting climate change and have access to Energy Department programs on deploying solar power locally.

White House officials want to get a diverse range of communities involved in the program, in terms of location, climate, geography and other factors.

The first stage is intended for cities and towns that are already taking action to fight climate change, with subsequent stages focusing on localities that have not gotten to that point.

Officials are asking local governments to submit their applications by Oct. 27.

Podesta first announced the contest last month at a clean energy conference in Las Vegas, though he gave few details.