Two Tribes are among the winners of the Climate Action Champions competition, the White House announced on Wednesday, December 3, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C.  Recognizing the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe (CA) and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (MI) for “exceptional work in their response to climate change” in his remarks at the Conference, President Obama told tribal leaders, “We’re going to keep working with all of you to … make sure your sacred lands are protected for future generations.” 

Underscoring the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting tribal climate action, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “We will continue to work side-by-side with tribal leaders to support efforts to advance clean energy solutions and identify climate action adaptation and resiliency strategies to help Alaska Native communities prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change on their land, economy, and natural resources.”

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians are among a diverse group of 16 communities selected as Climate Action Champions because of their pioneering commitment to cutting carbon pollution and preparing for the impacts of a changing climate.

The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe began its strategic climate action plan in 2008 and is a regional leader in strategically planning and implementing both climate resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction measures. To date, the Tribe has reduced its energy consumption by 35%, and it has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2018 using a range of approaches, including the use of biodiesel to power public buses and aggressive energy efficiency measures.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has demonstrated a holistic approach to climate action and preparedness through its energy strategy, emergency operations plan, integrated resource management plan, solid waste management plan, sustainable development code, and land use planning process. Through ongoing efforts to achieve its ambitious clean energy goals, including a net-zero energy goal, the Tribe aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4% annually.

In addition to being recognized as climate leaders, these tribal communities, along with the other 14 Climate Action Champions, are helping to define the frontier of ambitious climate action and will serve as models for other communities to follow, the White House said on Wednesday.

In vowing to keep working with tribal communities to deal with the impacts of climate change during his remarks at the Conference, President Obama thanked the tribal leaders who have offered advice on ways to do that as members of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

As Climate Action Champions, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will have access to a broad range of federal support designed to advance their efforts, including:

  • Technical assistance to bolster current and planned mitigation and resiliency efforts, including an assigned a coordinator to help Champions leverage existing federal programs and resources, some of which may offer preference to Champions
  • Decision-making data and tools tailored to their communities—including validated climate science, vulnerability assessments, and risk projection tools to foster informed decisions and strategic planning
  • Peer networking opportunities through the Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, including invitations to regional roundtables
  • Emergency response exercises offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess preparedness for and resilience to extreme weather events
  • Access to DOE renewable energy experts for unbiased information on solar policies and issues as well as assistance with local efforts to accelerate solar energy adoption
  • Opportunity to participate in the DOE Office of Indian Energy’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, which provides customized assistance to help Tribes develop renewable energy projects with an emphasis on energy system resilience.

The pioneering Champions selected in this first round of the competition will be asked to mentor and share lessons learned with the communities selected in the next round, helping them to leapfrog common implementation challenges and creating a model for future Climate Action Champions to follow.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Climate Action Champions competition was launched on Oct. 1, 2014, and is a collaborative effort among multiple federal agencies. With its dual focus on mitigating greenhouse gas pollution and building resilience to climate impacts at the local level, the competition takes an integrated approach to helping American communities accelerate and expand their efforts to address these interrelated goals.