Takeaways from the Nevada Climate Justice Convening
Authored by Torie Soriano, Dream.Org Digital Campaigner
My home state of Nevada is currently facing severe climate-related challenges that pose significant health, environmental, and economic risks. In Southern Nevada, communities have experienced a drought for over twenty years, along with intensifying heat waves and record temperatures. At the same time, Northern Nevada is contending with variable weather patterns; a lack of snowfall leads to seasonal wildfires while extreme summer storms result in severe flooding. As a Las Vegas native, my family is directly impacted by these realities along with many other underserved communities.
Thanks to Inflation Reduction Act grant programs, there is now a historic amount of funding available to address climate change, but there are knowledge and capacity gaps that prevent disadvantaged communities from accessing these grants. Historically, these gaps have prevented our state from accessing federal funding, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in aid. We need to bridge these gaps quickly to make sure no climate money is left on the table – because climate and our communities can’t afford to wait.
The Transformative Communities Team at Dream.Org is actively working to help communities like mine in Las Vegas tap into the knowledge and resources they need to access federal climate funding. In December, I helped our team host the Nevada Climate Justice Convening at the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas. In collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we brought together representatives from federal, state, and local governments as well as community organizations, minority business leaders, and financial experts. Our goal was to provide them with the knowledge, technical assistance, and networking opportunities they need to secure federal funding for local climate equity projects.
Over 50 stakeholders participated in the event and represented communities from all over Nevada, including Las Vegas, Reno, and even smaller cities like Pahrump. Locally, Clark County Director Marci Henson discussed the Southern Nevada sustainability audit and action plan, which organizations can partner alongside the county initiatives. Additionally, experts in technical assistance from HR&A provided information on how to effectively access government grants when resources are limited.
A key highlight of the event was the direct involvement of the U.S. EPA. Martha Guzman, the U.S. EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator, along with other U.S. EPA representatives, who addressed the Environmental Justice & Brownfield Grant Opportunities. During the dynamic networking lunch, every table was buzzing with conversation as participants strengthened local partnerships which are critical for successful funding applications.
The Nevada Climate Justice Convening presented a rare opportunity for direct engagement with the fund administrators. It is uncommon for government leaders to interact so closely, making the U.S. EPA's hands-on participation notably valuable. They were not only present but also actively engaged, ready to respond to inquiries, provide insights, and offer support. With a wealth of knowledge as well as a robust network of local and regional support systems, our community leaders left the convening better prepared to put Nevada on the path of climate recovery.
I left the convening eager to see the positive change that these leaders will make in our community together. By bringing a diverse group of people to the table, we are embarking on a more equitable strategy for tackling climate change in our state.