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April 20, 2023

Reps. Schiff, Barragan, and Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Climate Change Relief for Urban Areas Act

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was joined by Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in introducing the Climate Change Relief for Urban Areas Act. This legislation will open the door to more tree planting and urban agriculture in communities that have historically been marginalized – combatting environmental justice issues, including urban heat islands and stormwater runoff that impact those communities.

By amending the existing Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, this bill will prioritize community forestry assistance in areas with low tree equity scores and create a $30 million pilot grant program to create urban gardens at schools in those neighborhoods.

Low-income communities are more likely to have less green spaces and tree cover than other communities – increasing the urban heat island. That leaves people living in those neighborhoods more susceptible to health issues related to heat, and damage to property from flooding. As temperatures rise due to climate change, the threats posed by extreme heat to low-income communities become more severe. Already, extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, and it can lead to illnesses like asthma, kidney disease, and strokes. Similarly, floodwaters can mix with sewage systems and lead to polluted water, which poses a health risk of its own.

The legislation lays out specific requirements for schools participating in the pilot grant program, including needing to use organic farming practices, building a garden with a strategy for increasing energy efficiency, ensuring at least twenty percent of the garden is native plants, fruits, and vegetables, and incorporating an agriculture lesson plan into their science curriculum.

“I am proud to introduce this critical legislation to help mitigate environmental injustices that have plagued our most vulnerable communities. By planting trees and cultivating urban gardens in those communities, we can reduce their exposure to flooding and extreme heat. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support of this bill,” said Rep. Schiff.

“Communities of color have far less tree coverage than majority white areas. These disparities are especially felt in urban communities in my district, where heat waves from climate change are magnified by asphalt, and extreme rains flood our neighborhoods. I’m proud to co-lead the Climate Change for Urban Communities Act, which will invest in urban tree plantings, green roofs, and urban agriculture to help cool our communities, mitigate flooding, and shrink food deserts,” said Rep. Barragán.

“Green spaces should be accessible to everyone — no matter your neighborhood. Unfortunately, urban areas consistently have fewer tree canopies and green spaces than wealthier neighborhoods. Urban areas also traditionally have a larger population of low-income communities — leaving the already vulnerable more prone to dealing with the health risks associated with a lack of green spaces. This includes heat-related illnesses like asthma, chronic kidney disease, and stroke. I’m proud to introduce the Climate Change Relief for Urban Areas Act, which aims to prioritize tree planting and urban agriculture in historically marginalized communities to address these intersecting climate and public health crises,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.

The bill was co-led by Reps. Schiff, Barragán, and Ocasio-Cortez. Original co-sponsors were Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Shontel M. Brown (D-Ohio), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.).

The full bill text can be found here.