Maia Davis, Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming (EPA), Steve Walz (COG), Mark Rupp (EPA) at COG 2014 Climate & Energy Leadership Awards
While at a Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy last year, a team of local energy managers organized by COG Senior Environmental Planner Maia Davis learned that the region was eligible for a new Climate Action Champions competition sponsored by the White House. Winners would benefit from peer-to-peer learning and be eligible for targeted federal technical assistance and grant funding.
The team was interested in applying as a consortium of governments, so Maia quickly began coordinating with her local government counterparts based on our region’s leadership on climate and energy issues. This is but one of many examples of how Maia steps up as a leader to help COG members be more effective through regional action.
Maia had just a week and a half to pull an application together and seek support from COG members. Fortunately COG members have been leaders in the field and information on local and regional activities was accessible and ready to share through the COG Climate Energy and Environment Policy Committee’s (CEEPC) Climate and Energy Action Plan. The plan, which Maia helped develop for the Committee, contains 59 implementable actions focused on areas like energy use, buildings, and transportation and land use integration. The actions advance greenhouse gas reduction goals established in the National Capital Region Climate Change Report.
Maia could point to data and best practices thanks to COG’s work in tracking regional progress. Each year, Maia survey local jurisdictions, school systems, and water utilities to inform the annual Climate and Energy Progress Report. The most recent report noted that the region leads the nation in energy efficient building space and is home to the highest number of LEED-certified green buildings. It also highlighted local efforts from green streets policies to renewable energy projects.
After soliciting support for the White House competition from COG’s members, Maia got approval from 19 local governments. Of the hundreds that applied, the U.S. Department of Energy selected just 16 winners last December, including the National Capital Region. In addition to the grant and technical assistance opportunities now available, the Climate Action Champions designation is the latest example of how COG helps the region share best practices and promotes regional leadership on climate and energy issues.
The ‘Champions’ recognition came a few months after COG held a competition of its own to showcase outstanding local projects. The first annual Climate and Energy Leadership Awards were presented during the October COG Board of Directors meeting to the City of Falls Church, the City of Rockville, Prince William County, and Loudoun County Public Schools. The ceremony also attracted national attention, and included representatives from EPA as well as the National Association of Regional Councils.
The awards program was a joint effort of CEEPC and COG’s Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee. Maia says the program drew a lot of positive feedback. Participants said it created friendly competition and many are looking forward to entering the contest again in 2015. COG plans to put out a call for applications this spring.