Water Equity Clearinghouse

Cleveland Climate Action Fund

Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Climate Action Fund, formerly known as the Cleveland Carbon Fund, was founded in 2008 as the first community-based, open-access carbon reduction fund in the country. Since then, the fund has invested more than $100,000 in projects throughout Cleveland that both improve residents’ lives while mitigating carbon emissions. The CCAF provides a benefit to the community by funding local projects that support people to take climate action. Donor contributions create sustainable, positive change in local Cleveland neighborhoods.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

The effects of a changing climate are becoming visible in Cleveland, where heavy rainstorms have become more frequent, increasing the risk of urban flooding and sewer overflow. Total annual precipitation increased by 25 percent between 1956 and 2012, and precipitation events have become heavier. The city also experiences extreme temperatures, urban heat island effects, and heavy snowfall. Power outages can occur during extreme weather events, impacting water and wastewater systems. In addition, Cleveland faces socioeconomic challenges: 35 percent of the population lives in poverty, including half of the city’s children. Persistent poverty makes the city more vulnerable to climate risks; when residents are overwhelmed by other crises, they are less able prepare for and recover from climate impacts.

To address both climate and socioeconomic challenges in Cleveland, the city’s Office of Sustainability is including neighborhood revitalization as a core component of their climate adaptation strategy. The Cleveland Climate Action Plan, informed by engagement with more than 50 organizations, provides a foundation for building thriving and healthy neighborhoods. The City recently received a grant to update the plan; the update will be completed in 2018.

The Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Plan, led by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, emphasizes the importance of funding neighborhood-level resilience initiatives. Finally, the city partnered with several local foundations and organizations to create the Cleveland Climate Action Fund. The fund allows companies and individuals to lessen their carbon footprints by funding local climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

As part of the Cleveland Climate Action Plan, the city created a Neighborhood Climate Action Toolkit to guide residents and neighborhood groups in developing these projects. The toolkit was piloted in a participatory planning process led by community development corporations representing neighborhoods with large low-income, senior citizen, and African American populations. Residents can use the toolkit to identify neighborhood assets and challenges, develop project ideas, and apply for implementation funding from the fund.

Cleveland’s approach to climate adaptation shows the importance of thinking holistically about resilience. It can mean focusing on food security, public health, youth leadership, and local businesses. Climate adaptation strategies should reflect the diversity of the neighborhoods and communities facing them. So far, the toolkit’s approach has resonated with communities, creating greater social cohesion and dialogue around climate adaptation. Over the last couple of years, the fund has awarded almost $100,000 to 25 neighborhood projects, ranging from rain barrels and community gardens to a program that hires local youth to work on sustainable landscaping.