University of California awards more than $80 million in state-funded grants to spur climate action

UC Office of the President August 23, 2023

As part of a historic partnership between the University of California and the state of California, the University today (Aug. 23) announced it is awarding over $80 million in climate action grants. The grants will spur implementation of solutions that directly address state climate priorities.

The California Climate Action Seed Grants and Matching Grants will fund 38 projects that collectively involve more than 130 community, industry, tribal, and public agencies, as well as 12 University of California (UC) locations, 11 California State University (CSU) campuses and two private universities. Seed grants were awarded to 34 teams totaling $56.2 million. Four teams received matching grants totaling $26.9 million to support larger projects that could leverage additional funding from non-state sources. The $83.l million total is part of $185 million allocated by the state for UC climate initiatives advancing progress toward California’s climate goals.

Recognizing the historic opportunity to leverage this investment to strengthen community participation in shaping climate solutions, the state’s Strategic Growth Council is providing funds to the University to supplement the Seed and Matching Grants. The Community-Engaged S/Hero Award Supplements will provide 10 projects with $20,000 each to identify best practices for engaging communities around climate risks, and to provide leadership, resources, and counsel to all climate award teams on community

LAWR Awardees:

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Hernandez Award Type: SEED
Collaborating Partners: BayWa r.e.; Ciel & Terre; Electric Power Research Institute; Emeren
(formerly Renesola)
US Geological Survey; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; The Nature Conservancy;

Lay Abstract:
Solar energy development is expanding rapidly on land and water throughout the state of
California. The rate of development is expected to increase; approximately 65 gigawatts of
photovoltaic solar energy (PV) capacity is anticipated to fully decarbonize the state’s energy
system by 2050. Alongside this critical threshold for addressing climate change stands the need
to address biodiversity loss. Native species in the state of California have been reduced by over
20%, and over 600 species are vulnerable to extinction owing to both climate change and
habitat loss. For example, the California prairie biome, a vegetation type with high soil carbon
sequestration potential that once characterized the Central Valley, has been reduced in area by
95%. Given their interconnectedness, climate change and biodiversity loss are now referred to
as the “twin crises,” posing an existential threat to nature, people, economic prosperity, and
security. The rapid buildout of PV introduces the potential for both adverse consequences as
well as remarkable beneficial opportunities for certain species and ecosystem services. For
example, while fences surrounding PV facilities may reduce animal movement, they may also
protect vulnerable populations (e.g., plants subject to illegal poaching) and confer novel
opportunities for assisted migration.

Aligning climate change and biodiversity conservation goals requires evidence-based
knowledge of how actions to address these challenges interact. Unfortunately, the effects of
ground-mounted PV (GPV) and floating PV (FPV) development on conservation actions (e.g.,
California’s 30 x 30 Strategy) nor the best strategies to mitigate biodiversity loss while
simultaneously accelerating PV development are well understood in the U.S. state where the
stakes are the highest. The individuals and organizations participating in this proposal stand at
the forefront of efforts to understand and optimize interactions among PV, biodiversity
conservation, environmental justice, and socio-economic goals in California. The project
addresses key gaps in our understanding of the interaction between PV development and
biodiversity, assesses the efficacy of biodiversity-friendly mitigation strategies (i.e.,
methodologies and technologies) and identifies opportunities to reduce costs and regulatory
delays associated with PV development (e.g., CARB Scoping Plan).

Principal Investigator: Gregory Pasternack Award Type: SEED
Collaborating Partners: Contra Costa Resource Conservation District; Guadalupe-Coyote
Resource Conservation District; Napa Resource Conservation District; SafeR3; San Jose State
University; UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

Lay Abstract:
Natural hazards, socio-economic wellbeing, and ecological functions all intertwine in California’s
urban stream corridors, because these pathways are heavily relied on for flood and pollution
control, recreation, ecosystem services, education, and residency. As we write, tens of
thousands of unhoused people, previously pushed into living and forage along streams, are
evacuating streams and losing belongings due to flash flooding. Meanwhile, landslides are
destroying homes along the hills above. Yet 5 months earlier, the concern was drought, fire, and
overheating. California’s climate has always been defined by variability. Climate change
synergized with urbanization is amplifying extremes in ways that our urban stream communities
and ecosystems are not resilient against. Regional climate models already provide reasonable
forecasts that illuminate broader impacts requiring adaptation, but these must be combined with
a better understanding of local effects. Local urban managers tend to address crises with small,
specific projects absent the context of a whole urban region, with its complex intertwining of
multiple types of natural hazards, civil infrastructure, and socio-economic vulnerabilities. To
provide climate action in this context, we formed a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary
partnership that will carry out integrated applied research and practical action looking at urban
stream corridors as a system seeking climate resilience. We will discover landscape patterns
that amplify risks and identify locations where nature-based solutions can be most effective, by
using a combination of (1) targeted interdisciplinary data collection in local communities and
their streams, (2) model-predicted future climate condition maps, (3) remote sensing, and (4)
Big Data spatial analysis. Resulting risk and opportunity maps and recommendations will be
used by our local nonprofit and conservation district partners to aid decision-making about
where to deploy their resources and expertise for community engagement, master planning,
community education, and siting shovel-ready projects. We will also use this project, with its
training opportunities for diverse students, targeted workshops, and dedicated outreach to
strengthen ties across academic, industry, nonprofit, and government sectors leading to
subsequent actions that leverage this seed grant.


More information on the University’s efforts on supporting climate action research can be found here. Interested media may find a full list of awardees here.

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