Principles for Climate Justice

Communities of color, people with lower incomes, and indigenous people are on the frontlines of climate and environmental change. We are hit first by extraction, pollution, and damage to the climate, which makes existing health and economic disparities worse. Yet frontline communities are often left out or are the last to be included in the transition to a healthy, resilient and sustainable future. These principles are our collective approach to equity — reducing uneven barriers to participation and wellbeing — so that all communities thrive.

Acknowledge that past policies and decisions maintain a system of injustice

  • Account for past policies and decisions that contribute to and maintain a system that fosters disproportionately and racial injustice.

Follow the leadership, knowledge and expertise of communities disproportionately impacted

  • Who writes the rules matters.  Communities of color and people with lower incomes must have the capacity and opportunity to fully engage, at the outset, in policy design and implementation.
  • Monitor policy impacts on an ongoing basis, make this information publicly available, and create oversight for communities most impacted.

Use racial and economic analysis to drive decisions  

  • Racially neutral policies are rarely race neutral. Policy choices and implementation have racial consequences.
  • Therefore, equity, leveling opportunity,  must be at the center of every policy decision.

Use targeted strategies that create benefits for all

  • Identify environmental justice areas with high environmental burdens and social and economic disparities.
  • Adopt a strategy of targeted universalism—one that benefits all but is crafted to lift up communities facing the greatest barriers, and therefore provides community-specific results.

Create net environmental and economic benefits for communities of color and people with lower incomes

  • ‘Revenue-neutral’ and ‘trickle-down’ policies disproportionately hurt and do not benefit people of color and those with lower incomes.
  • Polluter pays revenue raised should first offset any additional economic burden placed on people with lower incomes and fewer resources, and then should support strategies that reduce pollution.