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Tribal Climate and Energy Resources & Opportunities

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Tribal Nations

There are 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in the United States. Each tribe is distinct by its history, language, culture and traditions. Tribal Nations are sovereign entities with the inherent right to self governance and self determination.

The United States government and Tribal Nations share a unique government to government relationship. State, local and tribal governments share common interests and responsibilities in resource management, services, environmental and economic sectors. Partnering on economic and environmental projects has the potential to increase economic growth, environmental sustainability, and improved health for all citizens through continued communication and collaboration.

For more information on Tribal Communities please visit the following: EPA American Indian Tribal Portal National Congress of the American Indians and EPA American Indian Tribal Portal

Investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and waste reduction can help tribal communities in many ways: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution, saving money, becoming self-sufficient in energy production, and increasing their resilience to climate change impacts. Each approach can be adapted to meet local needs. For example, improving energy efficiency can reduce energy bills and make homes and buildings more comfortable, often at a lower cost to consumers. Better energy efficiency may also make it possible to use small-scale renewable energy systems, which could bring electricity to places that either do not have reliable access or do not have access at all. Onsite renewable energy generation may not only increase overall access to electricity, but also provide jobs and reduce storm or wildfire disruptions. Waste reduction and recycling programs could offer new business opportunities for tribes even as they help reduce energy use and air pollution and improve the local environment.

The resources below provide information on achieving many community goals, including developing programs, writing guidance, and finding financing to get started.

Energy Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective and immediate ways to reduce local air pollution, control energy costs, limit a community’s contribution to climate change, and reduce its exposure to climate change impacts. Tribes can reduce energy consumption and costs through initial siting and construction of new buildings, efficiency upgrades to existing structures and equipment, and by purchasing energy-efficient products. All of these actions can help minimize the impact of rising energy prices.

Renewable Energy

Investing in local, renewable energy production can increase a tribe’s energy independence, and reduce its vulnerability to fluctuating energy prices and reliability. In addition to producing tribally-controlled energy for tribal community needs and dedicated off-grid projects, renewable energy can improve local air quality, be sold to the grid for a profit, create local jobs, and build tribal economic stability.

Waste

Around 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. End-of-life materials management (including reuse, recycling, and disposal) is an opportunity to not only reduce processing costs, but also decrease local emissions of air pollutants, hazardous materials, and greenhouse gases. Tribes can implement recycling and composting programs that reduce waste from their own communities.

Additional Benefits

In addition to the strategies described above, tribal communities can benefit from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change in other ways:

Resources:

  • EPA’s American Indian Tribal Portal provides environmental information for tribal communities. For local support, see the list of EPA Regional Indian Program Coordinators.
  • EPA’s Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program partners Tribal College and University professors with EPA scientists to address the environmental problems most important to their tribal communities
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development helps Indian communities gain economic self-sufficiency through the development of their energy and mineral resources.
  • The National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Climate Change page offers information on climate change policy concerning tribal rights.
  • The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University provides information on climate change impacts and adaptation. In addition to providing a robust library of technical and procedural resources online, ITEP provides training workshops and works directly with tribes across the country. 
  • The Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Project at the University of Oregon and EPA’s Region 10 Tribal Program Office developed the Tribal Climate Change Funding Guide. It features information on grants that may help tribes combat the impacts of climate change.

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