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Phoenix is pursuing major federal funding for climate change programs

The city of Phoenix is hoping to secure some major federal funding for climate change programs.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 set aside a historic $5 billion for states, local governments and tribes to address climate change. Applications for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program were due earlier this month.

In its application, Phoenix asks for $454 million for 15 climate initiatives. They range from switching public buses and government-owned vehicles to zero emissions models, to helping homeowners with energy efficiency upgrades, to reducing food waste, to establishing “microgrids” to keep some public spaces electrified by solar power or batteries in the event of a natural disaster.

“All of these things are beneficial and can provide co-benefits for air quality as well,” said Matthew Poppen, environmental director with the Maricopa Association of Governments, who helped write the  regional climate plan upon which Phoenix’s application is based.

Phoenix led the application process, but Mesa, Tempe, Maricopa County and the state of Arizona were also involved in planning. If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards funding to Phoenix, it would be used for projects across the Valley.

“Phoenix is on the front lines of climate change,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told KJZZ News. “The Climate Pollution Reduction Grant is really exciting, because it’s perhaps the most important grant program for local governments to reduce their greenhouse gasses.”

Gallego said Phoenix and other Valley cities were already exploring many of the projects outlined in the grant application. But she said federal funding would accelerate programs in the works and move up the timeline to achieving regional climate goals.

“This will help us do it so much more quickly and efficiently. It will make a huge difference in greenhouse gas emissions, and just fewer dollars that the city has to spend,” Gallego said. “We can do a lot of good with that money.”

If all of the projects were implemented with federal backing, Phoenix estimates it could cut more than 71,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2030 and more than 337,000 metric tons by 2050. The EPA  reportsan average car emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Most states and major U.S. metro areas are also applying for Climate Pollution Reduction Grants, so there is no guarantee Phoenix will receive the money it is asking for.

“It’s unprecedented,” Poppen said. “It’s a lot of funding. It will be very competitive.”

In addition to the city of Phoenix, the Tucson Metro Area, the state of Arizona, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, and San Carlos Apache Tribe are also pursuing climate change funding through the program,  EPA records show.

The EPA is expected to announce which cities, states and tribes will receive funding in July.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.