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Advancing environmental justice through local climate change planning

Authors: Emma French*, University of California
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Hazards and Vulnerability, Human Rights
Keywords: environmental justice, climate justice, climate change planning, participatory planning
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities, indigenous and immigrant communities, and communities of color. Often these groups have been at the forefront of fights for environmental, economic and social justice, not only raising general awareness, but also influencing policy making and planning practice. This paper explores the ways in which environmental justice activists and organizations are engaging with and influencing local climate change planning and policy making through a case study of Ontario, CA. In 2018, the City of Ontario, in collaboration with 13 other organizations, received a $23 million grant through the state’s Cap-and-Trade-funded Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Program. TCC grants support the design and implementation of neighborhood-scale climate change planning. While TCC’s primary goal is to reduce local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the program also explicitly acknowledges and seeks to address historic environmental disparities through community engagement and displacement avoidance. Looking back on the first year of TCC’s implementation in Ontario, this paper reveals emerging synergies and tensions between environmental, economic and social justice goals as they are articulated and institutionalized in the form of city plans and policies. Drawing on document analysis, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with activists, government officials, and other actors, the paper analyzes the role of local environmental movements in shaping current climate change plans and policies; highlights differing conceptions of environmental and climate justice within theoretical and practice-based discussions; and contributes to debates in critical environmental justice (CEJ) scholarship on the role of the state in addressing historic and ongoing environmental injustices.

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