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Petaluma earns $1 million grant to tackle climate change solutions

Sometimes moonshots hit their target.

Petaluma this week learned it is one of three winners of a climate change-focused grant program, the Cool City Challenge, allowing the city’s Cool Petaluma Moonshot Team to tap $1 million in funding, plus consulting support, to bolster the local effort to create a cleaner, better-connected and more resilient community.

Joining Petaluma were Los Angeles and Irvine, with each city’s months-long efforts beating out more than 40 entries across the state in a competitive grant program Gov. Gavin Newsom described as “an exemplary how-to guide for local communities to make a significant impact on climate change.”

The local effort, led by Petaluma City Council member D’Lynda Fischer, featured a team of seven residents, 25 community partners, 300 block leaders and dozens of local experts who came together to help craft a Moonshot Strategy Framework, according to a news release from the local team.

“I am in awe of this entire community and so very grateful for their enthusiasm and participation,” Fischer said in the release.

The $1 million award, provided by the Empowerment Institute, will help fund dozens of informational meetings to ensure Petaluma residents know how to do their part to help the city reach its goal of getting to carbon neutral by 2030.

Natasha Juliana, who will serve as the campaign director for Petaluma’s program, said there’s a clear desire among residents to help, and a clear message that they need more information.

“Everyone we’ve talked to so far seems to have a hunger to have something to do,” Juliana told the Argus-Courier previously. “That’s what we always hear, ‘What do I do? What can I do?’ We hope this program will help answer that question.”

For residents, Juliana said this could mean having a Cool Block volunteer knock on their front door for an invitation to a series of nine meetings that touch on issues like emergency preparedness, water conservation and sustainability. Participants would walk away with a clear checklist of things to do that could make their homes more efficient and carbon neutral, she said.

The push for grant funding is the latest step for Petaluma leaders in their effort to reach carbon neutrality goals. The City Council has also banned drive-through businesses, prohibited the construction of new gas stations and nixed natural gas in new construction projects, among other efforts.

As with those other efforts, Petaluma appears poised to be a leader in climate change-related efforts. The Cool City Challenge program is set to be rolled out to 50 cities in 2023 after the 2022 pilot run with three California cities. The overall goal: Reduce CO2 emissions in the world’s cities, which emit 70% of the harmful greenhouse gas.

Each of the 40 applicants to this year’s contest were required to recruit a leadership team, 25 community partner organizations and 200 block leaders, all while creating a climate moonshot strategy. The teams were also encouraged to ask their city councils to pass resolutions committing to carbon neutrality by 2030, according to a news release from the Cool City Challenge.

“These cities deeply inspired me with their dedication to such a rigorous application process, their out-of-the-box moonshot thinking, and the high-caliber leaders spanning the public, private and civic sectors they attracted to their moonshot teams,” Empowerment Institute CEO David Gershon said in the release.

With the program expected to launch in January, Petaluma’s team plans to spend the next two months building out infrastructure for the local effort, which will include its own website: coolpetaluma.org. For more information, residents are encouraged to email info@coolpetaluma.org.

“What I love about this program is that it provides a clear framework for bringing people together so that our small individual efforts have a larger collective impact and result in immediate improvements to our quality of life,” Juliana said in the release. “We are excited to make this a fun, welcoming, and worthwhile adventure.”

Meet Petaluma’s team

The Cool Petaluma Moonshot Team: co-leaders D’Lynda Fischer, City Council member; and Natasha Juliana, owner of WORK Petaluma; steering committee members Patrick Carter, city of Petaluma; Dr. Dennis Pocekay, City Council member; Naomi Crawford, owner of Lunchette; Ann Baker, Climate Action commissioner and landscape architect; and Raja Abastado, Youth Climate Action commissioner.

Tyler Silvy is editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Reach him at tyler.silvy@arguscourier.com, 707-776-8458, or @tylersilvy on Twitter.

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