August 29, 2023 — Last week, the University of California (UC) and the state of California announced an award of $80 million in grants focused on climate action. The grants fall under two categories: California Climate Action Seed Grants and Matching Grants, which will fund a total of 38 projects across the state.
Grant Allocation and Collaboration.
The grants involve collaboration among more than 130 community, industry, tribal, and public agencies. They also bring together 12 University of California locations, 11 California State University campuses, and two private universities. Seed grants were given to 34 teams, amounting to $56.2 million. Four teams received matching grants totaling $26.9 million, which aims to leverage additional non-state funding. The total grant of $83.1 million is part of a broader $185 million allocated by the state for UC-led climate initiatives.
UC President Michael V. Drake thanked the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom for their financial support, emphasizing that the projects would help make California communities safer, more sustainable, and more resilient.
Project Scope and Objectives.
The projects funded by the grants cover a wide array of climate issues, including wildfire risk mitigation, soil degradation, water management, and Indigenous-led land stewardship initiatives. The projects also focus on enhancing the health of farmworkers, bolstering state water and power systems’ resilience, and identifying innovative nature-based solutions for issues such as biodiversity degradation, sea-level rise, and wildfire risks. Some of these initiatives also align with the state’s solar and conservation goals, adapting community evacuation plans to accommodate the increasing use of electric vehicles. These two-year grants aim to benefit every region of the state.
Among the most significant awards announced on August 23, one project received a $5.5 million grant to form a Wildland-Urban Interface Climate Action Network. This network will involve tribes, community groups, universities, and land managers collaborating on methods to protect landscapes from severe climate events. Another project, COEQWAL, received nearly $8.2 million to develop new water planning tools aimed at equitable water distribution for California’s nearly 40 million residents.
Alignment with State Priorities.
The grants align with state goals of advancing climate resilience and social equity, particularly in communities most affected by climate change. UC Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Newman noted that the scale of these grants would translate into tangible improvements for Californians.
The grants were approved as part of the 2022–23 State Budget Act, following a request for proposals issued last December. The application and review process was overseen by the University of California Office of the President Research Grants Program Office, and awardees were chosen through a rigorous peer review process.
To encourage community participation in shaping climate solutions, the state’s Strategic Growth Council is providing additional funds for 10 projects. Dubbed “the Community-Engaged S/Hero Award Supplements,” the supplements will offer $20,000 each to projects that excel in community engagement around climate risks.
State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) noted the unique scope and scale of this state-funded research program and said that the deep connections between researchers and communities would strengthen preparations to withstand climate changes.
The grants come at a critical time, as California faces persistent climate challenges that have put the state in a ‘code red’ emergency status, according to Theresa Maldonado, UC Vice President for Research & Innovation.