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Carlie Trott  

A Multi-Phase Approach to Equity-Driven Climate Policy Planning in Cincinnati:

Centering Neighborhood-level Perspectives

Carlie Trott, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati

For 15 years, the city of Cincinnati has been measuring its carbon emissions and implementing a range of carbon-reduction strategies. In that time, through measurement, community visioning, analysis, and planning, the city has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 37.8%. However, climate vulnerability and sustainability cannot be measured by emissions alone. Increasingly, lived experiences and social and economic data show Cincinnati has much work to do when it comes to addressing longstanding inequities that are expected to be exacerbated by continued climate disruption. Through a collaborative project recently funded by SPSSI’s Local- and State-Level Policy Work Grants program, a team from the University of Cincinnati in collaboration with the City of Cincinnati Office of Environment and Sustainability, along with community organizations Green Umbrella and Groundwork Ohio River Valley have been working together to build the procedural and distributional equity tools needed to inform local climate policy planning that truly addresses the needs of frontline community members.

Policy Impact. The overarching goal of this collaborative project is to empower community voices to build capacity for a range of efforts across the city to foster equitable and sustainable land use, planning, policy, and social change in Cincinnati communities. Prior to this collaboration, no comprehensive effort to update social vulnerability and equity statistics for the city had been undertaken in half a decade, during which numerous critical processes have worked to reshape many parts of the city. Our collaboration will produce updated data tools and a neighborhood-level Equity Indicators Report summarizing key findings which will serve as a foundation for future climate equity work in Cincinnati that reflects the city’s 52 neighborhoods, 301,000 residents, and the unique histories of social and environmental injustice that have shaped them.

Academic & Community Impact. This collaborative research also begins to fill important gaps in the literature on equitable approaches to climate resiliency planning, while taking tangible steps to address real-world problems affecting Cincinnati and other cities around the globe. In addition to traditional academic outputs resulting from this project, a Community Toolkit will be developed as a key resource for making possible community-initiated climate resilience planning across Cincinnati neighborhoods. We plan to develop this toolkit with feedback from community members to ensure that it is well-designed and accessible in both content and format.

Aims of identifying and addressing the specific needs and interests of frontline community members are at the core of this collaboration. In particular, a chief aim is that the specific needs and visions of historically-disinvested and disproportionately climate-affected communities (i.e., low-income and BIPOC communities) will be reflected in the Cincinnati Green Plan, which is currently being rewritten for publication in 2023. This is a critical time to intervene on and shape the core document that will guide Cincinnati’s climate policy in the decisive years to come.

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