Around the country, activists are taking action on climate change and clean energy. In particular, the push to transition to 100% clean energy is growing in momentum and policy makers are acting.

This call for change is getting louder and for that we should feel hopeful, especially as we witness more young people and recognize more widely that communities of color are leading the climate movement. Communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change—Black, Indigenous, people of color and frontline—are transforming our nation. They are tackling big problems put on their communities by the insatiable need to consume and they are effectively advocating for solutions against great odds and often without meaningful support or substantial funding from outside institutions.

How did we get here?

The current situation of energy inequity is rooted in a long and even violent history. Deregulation removed restrictions on the energy industry resulting in monopolies controlled by the fossil fuel industry and profit-driven IOUs. The United States is based in neoliberalism that operates for the top 1%, while eliminating government programs, and creating systems that prevent services and goods for the public. Systemic environmental racism locked out Black and Brown communities from energy policy decisions, while creating an energy infrastructure meant to benefit the wealthy.

Because highly impacted communities are often ignored and their needs unrecognized, they are leveraging their assets, resources, power, and abilities for their own growth and solutions, and at the same time connecting with other communities to share, replicate, scale, and learn together about how they are creating change. Their approach is long-term and structural. It embodies decentralized self-determination. It recognizes that expertise must include lived experience, and ancestral and traditional knowledge. They are shifting the narrative away from one that says Black, Indigenous, people of color, and frontline communities are deficient and unable to create change without help from “experts,” or outside actors. Most notably, demonstrated by the creation of this document, Black, Indigenous, communities of color are capable of understanding highly technical aspects of climate and clean energy policy construction, equity, and what is workable on the ground in their communities.

The environmental justice solutions frontline leaders are putting forward require new systems, structures, and relationships that are collaborative, open, and driven by communities and, most importantly, focused on equity, repairing past harm, shifting power, and, of course, healing our planet.

Just as a 100% clean energy future is absolute and aspirational, so should other essential elements necessary for a transition that is just. These Building Blocks for a Regenerative & Just 100% Policy recognize that our economic system is inextricably linked to the climate crisis and therefore, the change required is as much about structural injustice as it is about the level of emission reduction.

Who is the target audience?

It is primarily intended to support organizations and advocates in Black, Indigenous, people of color, and frontline communities who are exploring or actively engaged in designing a 100% regenerative policy. We brought together their policy construction, ideas, and aspirations as a tool to inform and support other leaders like them. The hope is that by pulling together a comprehensive approach we will deepen understanding and expand the perspective of what it will take to transition to a 100% regenerative energy future that is just and equitable.

Environmental organizations and allies that are engaged in designing 100% regenerative policies in their states are a secondary audience. Although there are a number of documents that outline general policy components to include in a state’s 100% regenerative energy policy, environmental organizations should center this Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerate & Just 100% Policy document that focuses on justice-based policies within their more broad set of guiding documents. In fact, 100% regenerative energy policies will not successfully meet health and economy goals while transitioning into a clean energy economy unless robust justice-based policies that prioritize frontline communities are included.

Now that we’ve covered what the document is and for whom it is purposed, here is what it is not:

Disclaimer #1: This Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerate & Just 100% Policy document does not supplant the intentional collaborative work between environmental organizations and frontline communities necessary to pass good policy. Environmental groups, if they are not already, should develop a process of authentically engaging frontline communities from the start to co-craft policies together, to understand and hold frontline communities’ bottom lines, and to prioritize the goals and demands of these communities, as well as follow their leadership in the policy process. Here are a few key elements to a good process for allies:

  1. A fundamental approach is to follow the Jemez Principles.[1]
  2. Make a commitment to engage frontline communities actively, which can include leaders and organizations that do not have an explicit mission to work on environmental issues. Groups and people living in impacted communities will be committed to the interests of their community and often will be aware of and concerned about impacts and opportunities. Spend the time to ask these communities about their ideas and interests.
  3. Engage communities from the very beginning. All too often, communities are asked to support an already constructed campaign or policy solution. This does not respect the significant stake they have in the work nor their contribution and expertise on what works.
  4. Commit to finding or sharing resources— namely funding—so that they can participate in meetings, engage their communities, and be recognized and compensated for their expertise.
  5. Establish shared principles that explicitly state a commitment to ensuring frontline communities are leading and solutions that address injustices and equitable solutions.
  6. Create a governing body or system that is equitable. Equitable leadership means that over half of those making decisions are from frontline communities. Consensus decision making is the most equitable and ensures deep work and conversation necessary to build unified actions.

Disclaimer #2: Although this document is heavily focused on justice-based “building blocks” of designing a 100% policy, there is no “one size fits all” model. What ultimately is included in any state’s 100% policy is dependent on local context, politics, and organizational priorities, and holds paramount the interests and self-determination of local frontline communities.

Disclaimer #3: While this document is focused on the building blocks of an equitable 100% regenerative electricity sector, it is essential to recognize that phasing out fossil fuel use in transportation and buildings equitably must proceed in parallel to reduce air pollution, achieve climate and environmental justice goals, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a manner compatible with the 2018 IPCC report on the implications of global temperature increases of 1.5°C and 2°C.

Regenerative Ecological Economics is described 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 requires a re-localization and democratization of primary production and consumption by building up local food systems, local clean energy, and small scale production that are sustainable economically and ecologically.”

—Climate Justice Alliance [2]

Finally, there are a couple key definitions for this document:

  • First, ”frontline communities” are defined as those “that experience continuing injustice—including people of color, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those in rural areas, and Indigenous people—and face a legacy of systemic, largely racialized, inequity that influences their living and working places, the quality of their air and water, and their economic opportunities.”[3]
  • Second, for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and frontline the abbreviated term “BIPOC and frontline” will be used when describing disproportionately impacted communities on which this document focuses and for whom it was created.

While this document was created through the intentional work of bringing together BIPOC and frontline policy leaders to coalesce their current ideal policy design for 100%, our hope is that we continue to grow as a network and learn as a community, We will continue to bring community-led solutions to the foreground. We believe that without this knowledge we will not be able to thoroughly, effectively, and successfully move our nation forward to a 100% just and regenerative clean energy future.

References

  1. Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing.” Meeting hosted by Southwest Network for Environmental & Economic Justice. 1996
  2. Just Transition.” Climate Justice Alliance. Accessed 18 Jul. 2019.
  3. Advancing Climate Justice in California: Guiding Principles and Recommendations for Policy and Funding Decisions.” Climate Justice Working Group, Safeguarding California. Aug. 2017. Accessed 26 Jul. 2019.
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The Just Solutions Collective launched a new effort to bring forward and coalesce the expertise from frontline communities into the Comprehensive Building Blocks for a Regenerative and Just 100% Policy. This groundbreaking and extensive document lays out the components of an 100% policy that centers equity and justice.

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