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Justice40: Progress, Opportunity, and Accountability

Every neighborhood deserves a healthy environment. It’s past time to make this true in lower-income areas. Take care of our climate and environment and people, too. – SUPPORTER FROM BALTIMORE, MD

Why is Justice40 so important?

Last January, the White House made history by launching Justice40 – a whole-of-government commitment to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall federal climate and clean energy benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The Justice40 Initiative has the power to transform urban and rural communities across the country that have historically been left out of the transition to a clean energy economy. It can address decades of environmental injustices, ensure a just transition in rural communities with coal economies, and connect frontline workers to good green jobs.

But how will these dollars actually reach the communities that need them most? 

For the past year, the Council on Environmental Quality has been tackling the tricky question of what communities will be considered “disadvantaged”. The result was the development of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.

Together, we submitted formal comments to the Council on Environmental Quality with over 3,500 signatures of support, urging them to incorporate cumulative impacts within the tool and to conduct a race analysis to ensure that federal funding goes to the communities that have been historically underserved and overburdened. Read more about the screening tool on our blog post

Disadvantaged communities and communities of color have for too long been the victims of environmental racism. By making sure that the Screening Tool incorporates cumulative impacts, we can begin to address these entrenched wrongs and start making a difference for the communities that need it most. -SUPPORTER FROM WINTER SPRINGS, FL

So, what’s the latest news on the Justice40 initiative?

On May 23rd, the White House launched an inaugural Justice40 Week of Action to highlight recent successes of the Justice40 Initiative:

  • So far, over $29 billion in new funding opportunity notifications and announcements have been rolled out to deliver on Justice40.
  • The Council on Environmental Quality released a report of updates and actions taken to implement nearly 200 recommendations from the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council
  • The White House launched a Justice40 stakeholder engagement series to provide updates on how leaders from the agency, state and community level are using the Justice40 Initiative to deliver benefits to disadvantaged communities, and to hear input from community members
  • The White House launched a new website dedicated to their environmental justice work

The Week of Action also highlighted government agencies that are working to deliver on Justice40. We took a deep dive in the Council on Environmental Quality’s report and noted key takeaways: 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced $500 million to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses, while prioritizing school districts serving disadvantaged communities 
  • The Department of Energy announced $3.5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program to reduce energy costs and create jobs for 700,000+ low-income households 
  • The Department of Energy teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services to announce a community solar system subscription program for low income households to power the equivalent of 5 million households and yield $1 billion in energy bill savings by 2025
  • The Department of Labor announced $35 million to assist rural energy industry workers in the Appalachian and Lower Mississippi Delta regions in obtaining new green job training and opportunities 
  • The Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new Office of Environmental Justice to better protect the health of disadvantaged communities on the frontlines of pollution

Ryan Young, Policy Director of Green For All, responded to the latest Justice40 developments with a call for continued engagement: 

Without a doubt, this is progress. Investment addressing generations of communities suffering from pollution and poverty is critically overdue. Justice40 has the promise of beginning to address decades of environmental injustices, ensure a just transition in rural communities with coal economies, and create new workforce pathways connecting frontline community members to good green jobs.

The White House’s work so far on their environmental justice goals is promising, but given the huge potential impacts of Justice40, it’s clear that the work is just beginning. We will continue to ask for your voice and support to hold the Administration accountable along the way. We also note that Congress has a critical role to play in ensuring adequate executive agency staffing and in making deeper climate investments. Green For All is vigilant and we are watching.

While we applaud the White House’s work so far, it’s clear that the work is just beginning. We need your voice and support to continually hold decision-makers accountable and ensure the path forward is marked by justice for all.

Bella Goñi
Policy Analyst
Green For All Team 

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