A New Tool for Communities in Fighting Carbon Pollution

A historic collaborative of non-profit organizations has taken an innovative step in a growing commitment to help ease the deadly burden low-income and marginalized communities bear from climate change.

A historic collaborative of non-profit organizations has taken  an innovative step in a growing commitment to help ease the deadly burden low-income and marginalized communities bear from climate change.

The Clean Power for All collaborative, led by Green for All, includes the Center for Community Change, Clean Energy Works, the National Housing Trust, Partnership for Working Families, People’s Action Institute, Sierra Club, State Innovation Exchange, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the U.S. Climate Action Network. The group collectively wrote a set of policy proposals to address Climate Equity.

The group drafted the Clean Power for All Toolkit through a deliberative process with months of discussion to share ideas and suggest policy options that states can implement to maximize the benefits of climate action in historically underserved communities.

The toolkit recognizes the historic and persistent conditions that leave these vulnerable communities even more burdened and emphasizes that those conditions will not be alleviated without decisive and deliberate action. Perhaps the first of its kind, this resource was created by a cross- collaborative addressing multiple issues and policy options to respond to climate change with equity as its foundational principle.

A year ago, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to reduce carbon emissions from the electric sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, estimated to result in health benefits ranging from 140,000 to 150,000 fewer asthma attacks among children and 2,700 to 6,600 fewer premature deaths.

Because enforcement of the CPP has been temporarily “stayed” in court, states will not have to submit plans to implement the CPP until 2017, at the earliest.  However, states can begin to act now to ensure that these benefits reach communities of color and low-income communities by creating plans to target investments and reductions in hazardous emissions and clean energy investments in communities that need it most.

The toolkit includes seven individual chapters with specific analysis and policy suggested covering:

These seven chapters offer advocates and states blueprints they can begin to implement now to create climate change solutions that incorporate the needs and opportunities present in these communities.

Some highlights:

The first chapter on Investing in Frontline Communities was drafted by the People’s Action Institute and the National Housing Trust. The chapter covers a suite of ideas to ensure that communities see an equitable share of any revenue generated from climate change actions within states, including expanding access to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs with a key focus on the hard-to-research sectors in low-income and multifamily housing communities.

The next chapter (and perhaps the most important), on “Meaningful Community Engagement,” opens with the statement: “Public participation must go beyond one or two perfunctory hearings to achieve deep and meaningful engagement.” The chapter was written by People’s Action Institute, Sierra Club, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Climate Action Campaign and the Kentucky Conservation Committee. Ensuring meaningful engagement is key because unless local voices are actually at the table, the distance between adoption and implementation will surely miss key nuances in the local context, leading to unintended consequences. For example, states must ensure that they not only hold hearings in low-income communities but establish conditions that enable residents of various cultural and language backgrounds to be able to participate by producing material and translation in their own languages.

Often overlooked in policy responses to climate change are the opportunities to target investments in ways that create good jobs for working families. The chapter on “Good Jobs in a Clean Energy Economy,” drafted by the Center for Community Change and the Partnership for Working Families, addresses this gap. Key strategies include job training and apprenticeship programs, allowing projects to be deployed more efficiently.

The Clean Power Plan offers a great opportunity to move us along the path of reducing our nation’s carbon emissions and addressing climate change. As we await the outcome of court proceedings on the CPP, advocates and states should not wait to implement solutions that make our communities safer, protect our health, and provide quality livelihoods for all families.

The Clean Power for All toolkit provides a needed example of cross-sectoral collaboration and consensus-building on the type of future we want, providing a blueprint for action in states and communities across the nation.

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