Please join me in congratulating our Environmental Justice Manager, Maggie Tallmadge, on her next adventure! Maggie will be leaving the Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) to attend the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to pursue a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management.
The 2016 elections and federal level rollbacks on pro-people of color and pro-climate policies have only heightened the important role of states, cities, organizations, and communities in leading racial, environmental, and climate justice efforts.
Redefine: CCC's Initiative for Environmental and Climate Justice and the Climate Justice Collaborative focus on building leadership and capacity within communities of color and driving racially just environmental and climate solutions at the state and local level. Moreover, the CCC is focused on building strong coalitions and understands the intersections of issues and movements. We have offered just a snapshot of our efforts below. These priorities will make our communities more resilient, address climate change and work to eliminate racial disparities.
Climate and Energy Justice
On June 1st President Trump began the process of pulling out the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, increasing the disastrous effects of pollution and climate change on our communities and slowing the transition to an equitable, clean energy economy. However, on the same day, Multnomah County and the City of Portland became the first communities in the Pacific Northwest to commit to being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050.
We know communities of color, low-income communities, Native American tribes, and immigrants and refugees are hit first and worst by climate change and the pollution that drives it. We also know we must shift our exploitive economy (profit-driven, growth-dependent, and industrial) to one that is regenerative (sustainable, equitable and just for all its members)—and our communities must be at the center of fighting the bad and building the new. A Just Transition must:
- Shift economic control to communities
- Democratize wealth and the workplace
- Advance ecological restoration
- Relocalize most production and consumption
- Retain and restore cultures and traditions
- Drive racial justice and social equity
Read more about the regenerative economy and Just Transition framework through Movement Generation.That is why Verde, the CCC, and partners like OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Community Action Partnership of Oregon (CAPO), and Northwest Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (NWSEED) pushed and secured provisions in the 100% Renewable Resolutions that prioritized:
- Holding low-income ratepayers harmless during this energy transition, which is fundamental to ensuring that access to the financial and environmental benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy is shared equitably across all economic classes.
- Requiring clear commitments to community-based development and ownership of renewable energy infrastructure, which people of color and low-income people can use to meet their priorities. The City and County are required to support capacity building of organizations to realize these goals.
What does this mean? This means our communities can define our energy and economic future, by envisioning, planning, and developing an economy, energy savings, and benefits that serve local community needs. Much of today’s energy policy rewards those with economic means to maintain a low-carbon lifestyle rather than reducing financial, technology, and ownership barriers for communities already leading and innovating—communities of color, low-income communities, and tribes. Climate justice means not only shifting from exploitive fossil-fuel based sources of energy, but also dismantling corporate control of energy sources and transitioning to democratic, community-based control.
Learn more about energy democracy and community-based energy:
- Toward a Climate Justice Energy Platform: Democratizing Our Energy Future
- Energy Democracy For All: What is Energy Democracy
- NAACP Just Energy Policies Report
A big thank you to Multnomah County (Chair Kafoury, Commissioner Vega Pederson, County Commission, and Office of Sustainability) and the City of Portland (Mayor Wheeler, City Council, and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) for supporting this vision.
Housing Justice, Rent Stabilization, and Climate Resilience
The CCC released a report “Building Community: A Disparate Impacts Analysis and Cross-Cultural Agenda to Prevent Displacement and Gentrification” written by the CCC and Urban League of Portland and funded by Meyer Memorial Trust. The “Rebuilding Community” brief is based on the experiences of many of Portlanders from communities of color, advocacy organizations and a series of culturally-specific focus groups held over six months. It provides a vivid narrative of the impact of barriers to people finding a stable home. The report recommends policymakers can help slow the displacement of communities of color by passing legislation like HB 2004A, which limits evictions without cause against individuals and families who follow the terms of their leases.
Housing Stability and Anti-Displacement: What does environmental and climate justice have to do with it?
Investments in environmental and climate justice strategies do not work if they do not include investments in housing stability and affordability. Lack of affordable, safe and energy efficient housing leads to heightened displacement, worsening existing environmental injustices such as communities located near high traffic and pollution corridors; increased distances to healthy foods, jobs and community centers; less ability to afford energy or water costs due to increased transportation costs; and less access to public transit and walkable neighborhoods.
Displacement of our communities to the outskirts of cities directly contributes to climate pollution due to increased travel distance, prevents equitable access to new climate resilient infrastructure and environmental benefits, and decreases economic stability. People experiencing homelessness are overexposed to environmental hazards such as pollutants, extreme weather, and incomplete pedestrian infrastructure—clear environmental injustices. Moreover, increasing climate impacts in other parts of the country are making the Portland metro region a more attractive place to live in. Of course, climate change is just one factor among many that influence people to move, but as climate change heats up, many have theorized that migration to the Portland and the Pacific Northwest will accelerate, which will make housing even more expensive.
Combating displacement through strategies like equitable development, affordable housing, local minority contracting and construction, and energy savings is a climate, economic and community resilience strategy. We recognize that climate solutions can stabilize neighborhoods and communities and help alleviate poverty.
For more legislative updates see REDEFINE’s most recent newsletter here.
End of Year Wrap Up
The Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) and our members continue to work with communities of color, tribal governments, environmental, public health and labor partners across the state to develop a strong front and climate justice policies focused on real greenhouse gas emissions, jobs, and equity. These policies must support a cohesive racial justice agenda for the State of Oregon and the City of Portland.
To achieve our agenda, REDEFINE, the CCC's Initiative for Climate and Environmental Justice, has worked collaboratively with partners to build capacity in member organizations as well as provided education and engagement opportunities focused on environmental and climate justice.
The development of a curriculum workgroup and series of cross-cultural workshops has helped communities of color better understand public policy and to develop their personal narratives as a tool for their climate justice advocacy.
Our first climate justice workshop focused on: 1) understanding the root causes and impacts of climate change on a personal, local and global level, 2) identifying solutions, and 3) connecting attendees to opportunities to take action. Our second workshop for organizations and communities of color will be held on Wednesday, December 21, at 5:30 pm (REGISTER HERE) and will be focused on how 2017 climate justice policies (e.g. capping pollution/investing in communities, housing, and transportation) can support a larger racial justice agenda and respond to community needs. Upon completion of our two-part workshop series on climate justice, we will adapt these for other organizations of color. In 2017 we will build on this foundation through a series on green infrastructure funded by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. Please contact Maggie@communitiesofcolor.org to host or attend a workshop.
Finally, we continue to seek resources from local and national funders to support communities of color to act and lead on environmental and climate justice solutions. Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT) recently awarded grants to CCC members – Africa House, Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) and VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project through MMT’s Healthy Environment Portfolio. The grants will support capacity building, strategic planning, and curriculum development around environmental and climate justice.
The Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) and our partners envision connected, balanced, healthy and thriving communities framed thRough:
- Principles of Environmental Justice
- Relational Worldview Model
- Multiplicative Benefits and Sustainability Redefined
- Seventh Generation Perspective
- Social Cohesion
Members of the CCC have established this shared vision to guide our work in Redefine: The CCC’s Initiative for Climate and Environmental Justice.
We believe any environmental or climate initiative must lead with racial and economic equity, prevent harm, provide benefit, and ensure inclusive and accountable decision making. Keep reading to learn more about how we apply these principles. To see the 2016 Redefine Principles, please click here.
Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders—In December 2015, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the CCC, and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon were awarded a grant from the Kresge Foundation to implement Tyee Khunamokwst: “Leading Together”: Cross Cultural Climate Justice Leaders. Tyee Khunamokwst is our three-year climate resilience plan for the Portland metro region that articulates how communities of color can shape public processes related to climate resilience. We prioritized cross cultural climate action capacity, housing justice, transportation justice, green infrastructure and disaster resilience. Additionally, our collaborative is working with national grantees to make the case of anti-displacement as a pillar of climate resilience. To see the full and abbreviated version of the plan, please click here.
Again, members of the CCC jumped full force into 2016 short session, securing victories with Minimum Wage, Inclusionary Zoning, Coal to Clean, and more. The CCC also pushed for three main bills with partners at Renew Oregon and Living Cully related to our climate and environmental justice work. To see detailed information on the CCC's 2016 Legislative Priorities, please click here.
Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan—With its passage, Oregon became the first state in the nation to phase coal out of its energy grid. The legislation also doubles our use of renewables by 2040, creates a community solar program with a 10% low-income subscription target, and incentivizes additional electric vehicle infrastructure. Over the long run, given the high cost of coal infrastructure and maintenance, switching to renewables will reduce energy costs for ratepayers. Community solar allows residential and small commercial customers of Pacific Power and PGE to participate in the ownership of off-site solar projects which would be credited against their electricity bill. It also directs the PUC to ensure that at least 10% of the overall community solar program capacity be provided to low and moderate income customers.
Cully Park—Verde is transforming a 25-acre brownfield in Portland’s largest and most diverse neighborhood (Cully) into a public park. This new community asset provides opportunities for healthy eating and active living, educates youth, creates jobs and sets a template for community development of environmental infrastructure.
Healthy Climate Bill—The CCC supports a carbon pricing bill that ensures Oregon meets its statutory climate pollution reduction goals and holds major polluters accountable. Equitable climate policy means historically underserved communities are involved in decision making, are not harmed by climate change and policy solutions, and see revenues reinvested in ways that reduce disparities and create direct benefits and opportunities in our communities.
Check out Greenlining Institute’s report to see how California has reinvested carbon pricing revenue to address the priorities of low-income communities and communities of color.
And on everyone’s mind? Air toxics in Portland. Cadmium and arsenic associated with glass manufacturing were detected first around Bullseye Glass (SE) and Uroboros Glass (NE). As people of color and people with low-incomes, we have known for decades the burden of air pollution, toxics and particulate matter on our communities in Portland and globally. While no community should experience these risks, why have two “hot spots” of metals in certain neighborhoods finally drawn attention to air quality, yet the disproportionately higher risk in our communities of color and low-income communities due to diesel exhaust and other toxics have not? We are working with our partners at Beyond Toxics, CRAG Law Center, Neighbors for Clean Air, Oregon Environmental Council, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and others to ensure more than spot treatment. The State of Oregon must be accountable to the health of our communities. Contact the CCC, OPAL Oregon Environmental Justice, and Neighbors for Clean Air for upcoming workshops, resources, and advocacy opportunities.
How You Can Help
Where else can you lend your voice, experience and expertise? Through 2016 and 2017, we are poised to continue our fight in the legislature to:
- ensure polluters pay for the harm they cause to our communities and environment;
- provide equitable funding and representation for our communities;
- regulate diesel and air toxics that compromise our health; and
- expand use of clean energy technology to reduce environmental and financial inequities.
Do you have a story to tell related to the health of your community? Contact Maggie Tallmadge, Environmental Justice Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The CCC will also develop a series of workshops on climate and environmental justice including concepts, root causes, solutions, and advocacy opportunities. Reach out and stay tuned for more details!