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Climate justice leads the way to real solutions for people and the planet

7th September 2021 Gloria Walton, President and CEO of The Solutions Project 4 min read

Our path to partnership with Climate Week NYC didn’t start out as fast friends. Rather, it was one that began by our offering them feedback; they cared enough to listen and hear us out — a process we wish were more common in our public discourse. In February, my team at The Solutions Project launched the first-ever Black Climate Week, in part to draw attention to the fact that climate justice leaders of color have been consistently under-represented at Climate Week NYC.  

A lot of organizations would have gotten defensive about the criticism. But instead, Climate Week NYC asked us to partner up to make sure this year’s Environmental Justice program better reflects the people most affected by climate change, and highlights the practical solutions that communities of color on the front lines of the climate crisis are creating. What’s more, Climate Week NYC decided to prioritize climate justice — to make sure equity considerations are woven throughout the entire program. 

Our productive partnership with Climate Week NYC reflects a trend. From nonprofits to businesses, from universities to the media, and from Washington to state capitals across the country, more institutions with power and resources are making racial equity and climate justice commitments in response to organized movements for change. 

In Washington, the Biden/Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative mandates that front-line communities reap at least 40% of the benefits from federal climate spending. In philanthropy, the Donors of Color Network is pressing climate funders to pledge at least 30% of their donations to groups led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color. In the media, our annual Renewable Energy Narrative Trends report found that coverage of equity issues more than doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. 

We are gratified to see centers of power telegraphing good intentions, but we also know that is only the first step when putting equity commitments into action. If we are to stabilize the climate, blunt the worst effects of the climate crisis, and make a just transition to a green economy that benefits everyone, earnest rhetoric about climate justice must be met with concrete deeds. Action at a scale and speed to adequately confront the gross inequities being exposed along racial lines in nearly every crisis our country faces, let alone account for historic disinvestment. This is key to justice. 

That can seem overwhelming until you realize that the innovations required to solve many problems at once are already well underway in front-line communities. If you’re not yet familiar with us, The Solutions Project can point you in the right direction. We fund and provide communications support to over 75 grassroots climate justice organizations across the United States, most of which are led by women of color. The solutions they’re already putting into place — despite shoestring budgets — are remarkable. They deserve your attention, respect, and much, much more support. 

During Climate Week NYC, our grantees will talk about how they are getting it done:

  • The Climate Justice Technology Solutions panel offers an opportunity to hear from front-line leaders developing cutting-edge technology to further climate justice in Black and Indigenous communities across the country. Community-led innovations include solar streetlights that enable community Wi-Fi, solar-powered panels that produce clean drinking water from thin air, and off-grid solar technology that brings electricity and energy storage to rural communities.
  • NY Leads on Climate Justice Policy shows how a state-wide coalition of front-line climate groups enlisted Seventh Generation, a Unilever home products brand, to secure passage of the strongest climate justice policy in the country, which is now inspiring federal action.
  • Covering Climate Justice Solutions offers journalists first-hand takes on the reporting of climate justice solutions rooted in front-line communities of color where impacts and innovations are the greatest but often don’t get the coverage. 

These events serve as a terrific starting point for anyone interested in expanding climate justice through innovation or leadership in technology, business, public policy, or media narratives. And for those already engaged, they offer inspiring updates from the front lines. We hope you’ll attend and check out The Hub Live for more from our team at The Solutions Project. 

Organizations with power and influence must flip the switch from commitments to action. Follow Climate Week NYC’s lead and throw open your doors — and your wallets — to communities of color who are already feeling the effects of climate change, and already responding with the bold, practical solutions we all want and need.