Accelerating a Just Transition in Washington State

Climate impacts us wherever we live, work, study, and play in Washington State. The compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further reveal that the systems we have created to deal with daunting challenges related to health, the economy, and justice are neither sustainable nor equitable. The measure of health impacts and available remedies during the COVID-19 crisis follow a similar pattern to climate and environmental injustices. How you’re impacted is a factor of both 1) exposure, whether to the virus or the economic fallout, and 2) pre-existing vulnerabilities like healthcare access, existing health conditions, race and language discrimination, and lack of employment or savings. These conditions are the result of historic and persistent institutional racism and systemic inequity.

Front and Centered has been organizing for this moment. Our Principles for Environmental and Climate Justice provide guideposts for how we do our work. Racial and economic analysis, such as the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map, should drive decisions. We follow the leadership, knowledge, and expertise of communities disproportionately impacted. We pursue targeted strategies for communities of color and Indigenous people that create net environmental and economic outcomes for everyone. And we have our eyes set not just on piecemeal change, but a truly Just Transition.

Our new report, Accelerating a Just Transition in Washington State: Climate Justice Strategies from the Frontlines, is intended to guide the Front and Centered coalition and our allies as we consider where to focus our work.

As always, our approach begins with outreach and discussions with people most impacted by the issues through grassroots organizations rooted in communities of color doing direct listening and organizing. We strive for action on all fronts on the solutions we really need. We seek to transition away from an extractive, exploitative society to a future where our communities and the earth are healed and thriving, our people have dignified work and the building blocks of opportunity and prosperity, and our government values, respects, and represents us. We are working for sovereignty, resilience, and self-sufficiency for our communities so that future generations can thrive. We strive to make racial inequities on all issues a thing of the past, and to ensure that people of color and indigenous people are at the forefront of building equitable, democratic systems and policies that work for their communities. Read about the Just Transition Framework in this Zine by Movement Generation.

Washington State’s Just Transition requires action in four key areas, that while not historically the focus of climate work, are necessary conditions for achieving climate goals:

  1. Center Those Disproportionately Impacted in Governance
  2. Restore Community Connections to Place
  3. Create Livelihoods within a Healthy Environment
  4. Transition to Renewable Resources and Energy

Washington State is at a pivotal moment. While we are winning small battles to shift our economy off extractive resources, we are losing communities to displacement, life expectancy to air pollution, and our future to climate change. The solutions that will allow us to break from business as usual are those that prioritize equity. We must temper the urge to put all our resources toward short term wins based on what is politically possible right now to illuminate the full potential of where we can go if we pull together for a truly Just Transition.