Happy Earth Day!
Today, we’re celebrating some invigorating developments in the fight for environmental justice — ones that prove that the only real solutions to the climate crisis are ones that lift up workers, fight racial injustice, and contribute to building a society based around principles of equity, care, and accountability.
Cities are committing to 100% clean energy for all
This month, Chicago made history by becoming the largest U.S. city to commit to 100 percent renewable energy before the middle of the century. Chicago will not only transition to clean energy in buildings by 2035 and fully electrify the public bus fleets by 2040, but will also prioritize good job creation and community self-determination. Read more about Chicago’s leap towards a climate-safe future here.
Chicago is the largest city in the U.S. to make such a commitment, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Check out the Sierra Club’s list of the hundreds of other cities and states committed to renewable energy here. Don’t see your city on the list? Reach out to the local environmental justice groups or community-based organizations in your area and get involved in the fight for a just transition and clean energy for all. Find a Climate Justice Alliance member in your area here, reach out to your state’s Sierra Club chapter, or find a local labor group organizing around climate action through the Labor Network for Sustainability.
Governments are waking up to the power of public purchasing
Setting ambitious clean energy goals is just the first step in the fight for a climate-safe future. The next steps — how you get there — are arguably more important. As we move to electrify bus fleets and transition power grids to renewable energy, the policy tools and political channels we rely on will determine whether the future we build is inclusive, equitable, and caring. But the good news is, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to public policy.
In 2017, LA Metro, the Los Angeles public transit agency, set out to become the first major transit agency in the country with an all-electric bus fleet. LA Metro’s all-electric commitment was impressive, but the path LA Metro is taking to get there is the real achievement. The transit agency harnessed their public purchasing process to hold the transit manufacturers building their new electric buses accountable to the creation of good, high-road jobs. The result? An electric bus factory in the Antelope Valley that now hires over 700 workers from communities that have been historically left out of manufacturing career pathways. And that’s what good job creation for a just transition looks like.
People are listening to youth, grassroots groups, and environmental justice communities
But a just transition isn’t just a question of good, high-road job creation. It’s about centering communities — especially environmental justice communities, low-income communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities — in the process. As the movement for a Green New Deal mounts with youth groups like Sunrise Movement embarking on national tours, we’re heartened to see folks engage in debate and conversation around what a real just transition looks like.
Sophia Reuss is Jobs to Move America’s communications specialist based in New York.