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We Have What We Need to Address Climate Change Equitably

Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Lovinia Reynolds

Lovinia Reynolds

Policy Analyst and Environmental Justice Coordinator

We have the solutions we need to build an equitable and just climate resilient future. Over the past year, coalitions of frontline environmental groups, labor organizations, tribal groups, and other mission-driven organizations in the United States have developed and published comprehensive policy platforms to address the climate crisis. These platforms outline federal, local, and state policy for building resilience and transitioning to renewable and regenerative economies. Black, Brown and low-income communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. They will be impacted first and worst by climate impacts and, in some cases, may not have the resources to quickly recover. Following the leadership of these communities ensures the most vulnerable members of our society are protected as policymakers work to address the climate crisis. This blog post highlights three platforms that work to develop an equitable, just, and climate-resilient future.

windmillsNational Platforms

Equitable and Just National Climate Platform

In 2018, the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, the Center for American Progress, and Natural Resources Defense Council launched the Climate Forum to collaboratively develop a federal policy platform that addresses environmental and climate injustice and creates resilience in the most climate vulnerable communities. The resulting Equitable and Just National Climate Platform recommends an affordable, pollution-free, and just energy economy; reductions in cumulative environmental impacts; healthy transportation and goods movement systems; healthy housing; reductions in wealth inequality; and the right to community self-determination. As of July 2020, the platform has 283 signatories representing individuals and organizations across the environmental movement. Apart from a holistic and just approach to national climate policy, the platform also acts as a model for collaboration between grassroots environmental justice groups and national environmental justice groups.

You can read the platform here.

National Economic Transition Platform

Published in June 2020, the National Economic Transition platform lays out a vision for federal action in communities transitioning from fossil fuel to climate resilient economies. A diverse group of 81 organizations worked to develop a policy platform that prioritizes local investment and leadership in communities impacted by the transition from coal. Groups involved include labor unions, tribal organizations, environmental groups, and community development organizations.

The platform’s 81 contributing groups recommend seven areas in which federal policy solutions can help to build vibrant rural, urban, and tribal communities across the United States:

  • Federal investment in local leaders, specifically in low-income communities of color;
  • Federal investment in locally owned small businesses, especially in areas negatively impacted by extractive economies;
  • Federal investment in worker transition programs to ensure workers impacted by coal closures have access to high quality, union jobs;
  • Remediation and reuse of former coal sites to create jobs and improve environmental health;
  • Federal investment in physical and social infrastructure to stimulate economic development;
  • Protection of workers, communities, and the environment during private bankruptcies; and
  • Local access to federal programs and investment dollars to support community leadership.

You can read the National Economic Transition Platform here.

State and Local Platforms

Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerative and Just 100% Policy

The 100% Network is a coalition of frontline, intermediary, and national environmental groups united in their vision for a transition to a 100% “regenerative energy future that is equitable and just.” Coalition members include the NAACP, Emerald Cities Collaborative, and OPAL Oregon Environmental Justice. In January 2020, the 100% Network published Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerative and Just 100% Policy. The Building Blocks outline state and local policy recommendations for a justice-centered approach to achieving 100% renewable energy goals. The authors embed justice and equity solutions in a wide range of areas including setting renewable energy targets, prioritizing frontline communities, creating equitable transportation systems, developing new energy infrastructure, protecting labor rights, financing the transition to new energy systems, and managing leftover infrastructure from the fossil fuel industry.

Two concepts are key to the Building Blocks’ foundation. The first is an expanded definition of a Just Transition. According to the 100% Network, a Just Transition is the shift from an extraction-based economy to a democratic, equitable, and ecologically resilient economy.

Second, instead of focusing on renewable energy, the platform uses the term “regenerative” to capture the energy future envisioned by the 100% Network. The Climate Justice Alliance defines regenerative ecological economies as “advancing ecological resilience, reducing resource consumption, restoring biodiversity and traditional ways of life, and undermining extractive economies, including capitalism, that erode the ecological basis of our collective well-being.” This holistic perspective on climate justice is reflected across the many recommendations developed by the platform’s authors. In all areas, the platform centers equity and justice in the transition towards a regenerative economy. 

Impact

These platforms and the organizations that have worked to develop them are already making a significant impact on the national stage. Supporters of the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform applauded the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis for its focus on environmental justice in the congressional climate action plan released on June 30. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has prioritized impacts on low-income and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities in his $2 trillion climate plan. These efforts and more demonstrate the growing influence of frontline communities and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities on environmental and climate policy. They also demonstrate that frontline communities have the expertise and solutions we need to address climate change. All we need to do now is listen.

 

All blog posts are the opinion of its author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of ELI the organization or its members.