Q&A: Chicago Advocates on Equity in Decarbonization Policies

Courtney Hanson of People for Community Recovery and Yessenia Balcazar of Southeast Environmental Task Force talked with NRDC’s Gina Ramirez about the importance of Chicago introducing equitable building decarbonization polices that benefit its communities.

Last month we sat down with Chicago Environmental Justice advocates Courtney Hanson and Yessenia Balcazar to demystify building decarbonization, which is the process of reducing or eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions from a building’s energy sources, and why it’s particularly important for frontline communities that bear the brunt of the cumulative impacts of the city’s industrial and diesel truck pollution.

For part two of our Building Decarbonization Q&A series, Courtney and Yessenia returned to talk about how environmental justice groups in Chicago are working with the city to reach its climate goals through building decarbonization.

The pair discussed the work they’re doing to ensure the city introduces equitable building decarbonization polices, specifically a Building Performance Standard (BPS), that benefit their communities by addressing workforce development and training, lowering energy burden, and addressing health disparities and energy affordability.

While they expressed gratitude for being included in the policy-making process they know that “a law is only as good as how it gets rolled out.” Policies should be carefully crafted to avoid unintended consequences, like penalizing owners of naturally occurring affordable housing who can’t afford to upgrade their buildings to follow new laws, which is why they say it’s crucial to keep community leaders involved in these discussions.

Watch the full Q&A below:

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