California cities have long been tasked with developing a plan to reduce carbon emissions and create more sustainable, environmentally friendly communities. The City of San Diego approved its Climate Action Plan last year and other nearby cities have followed suit as a result of the state mandate. But for smaller cities, the task can be overwhelming.
“Many haven’t done the beginning work of just evaluating what is currently being done to reach those goals, let alone strategize how to move forward,” said Jessica Barlow, director of the Sage Project, SDSU’s premier community engagement and sustainability program.
With the Paris climate agreement as a backdrop, cities worldwide are struggling to understand their role in helping reduce their impact on the environment. As a result, at the December 2015 summit the United Nations (UN) Habitat program launched “Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning” and a corresponding toolkit to help guide cities in their efforts.
While speaking about the Sage Project at the Resilient Cities 2016 conference in Germany, UN Habitat representatives asked Barlow if SDSU would be interested in using their toolkit with a partner city.
“We talked to our new partner Lemon Grove and they were all in,” Barlow said.
The City of Lemon Grove is the first city in North America to use the new UN Habitat toolkit, thanks to their partnership with SDSU’s Sage Project. The toolkit already has been successfully applied to the climate action planning process for the cities of Vilankulo, Mozambique, and Glasgow, Scotland.
This semester, 16 classes from a variety of disciplines are participating on numerous projects in the Sage Project’s partnership with Lemon Grove. Professor Zohir Chowdhury’s Public Health 452 class titled “Health Impacts of Climate Change” and a team of independent study students are using the toolkit and applying the “Guiding Principles” to Lemon Grove to help the city with their climate action planning process. Students will propose mitigation and adaptation solutions for greenhouse gas emissions.
At the end of the school year, Lemon Grove will have a final report that will detail where they are in their current climate action planning, areas where they could strengthen the process and where future climate planning efforts could be focused.
“The City of Lemon Grove is exploring the range of strategies used in climate action planning,” said Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero. “The partnership with the Sage Project provides the perfect setting to research and explore this topic fully. The Sage Project will give us a starting point to move forward with our climate action planning efforts.”
The work being done by SDSU students in the Sage Project is also new for the UN. Until now, the UN has only provided the toolkit to cities directly, so the collaboration with a university will provide them with feedback about how the application works in a practical sense.
In fact, the partnership with SDSU is so novel, UN Habitat had Barlow present at their international Habitat III Conference in Ecuador last month. The conference takes place only once every 20 years. Barlow was on a panel with representatives from ICLEI, UN Habitat, the World Bank, the Cities Footprint Project, and the International Society of City and Regional Planners, plus the Deputy Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, all of whom provided their endorsement of the Guiding Principles.
While in Ecuador, Barlow and a UN Habitat representative contacted Chowdhury and his students via Skype in San Diego to discuss progress on the project.
“The fact that our students are getting face time with representatives from the United Nations is huge,” said Barlow. “If SDSU can help Lemon Grove make practical steps forward in their planning, it’s possible this university-city partnership model could be expanded across the San Diego region, as well as nationally and internationally.”
Request for Proposals
The Sage Project just opened their Request for Proposals for the 2017-2018 school year. Cities interested in participating can get more information and details on submitting a proposal by visiting the website sage.sdsu.edu or by contacting the Sage Project directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about The Sage Project
Sage was founded at SDSU in 2013 and is modeled after the Sustainable City Year Program created seven years ago at the University of Oregon. Both programs are members of the Educational Partnership for Innovation in Communities Network that aims to expand the partnership model internationally. In the past three years, nearly 2,500 SDSU students have tackled multiple real-world projects in National City, redesigned two parks in Tijuana and worked closely with officials in Santee and San Diego to implement changes that support livability. There are 25 classes participating in the 2016-17 partnership with Lemon Grove in fields ranging from public health to civil engineering to graphic design.