In 1993, CT DEEP enacted its Environmental Equity Policy, which states that, “…no segment of the population should, because of its racial or economic makeup, bear a disproportionate share of the risks and consequences of environmental pollution or be denied equal access to environmental benefits.”
Yet, Connecticut has fallen behind on providing equal access to energy and climate education, has fallen behind on equal access to solar, and has yet to meet the carbon reduction goals related to home energy emissions.The general lack of public facing information has led to a lack of representation of black and brown workers in clean energy careers. At the top of my personal list of equity related concerns, is the lack of access to information on the interconnectedness of energy impacts to health, and wealth, which has slowed uptake of energy saving upgrades in renters, and in black and brown communities.
Far too often Black and Brown communities are seen as, “the last to adopt new technologies” but in reality home energy efficiency upgrades and solar have remained just out of reach for renters and low income households. The issue is related to the lack of effort to engage us in the planning, and the lack of education. We can connect to things we have not been informed on, things we have not been engaged on, or have not been able to afford or access.
As our climate changes rapidly, many communities are completely unprepared for the changes which we are already experiencing. The impacts of increased heat, increased flooding, increased storms, and increasing prices for basic necessities such as shelter, water, food, heat, and electricity will hit low income communities, and low lying communities hard. The pandemic exposed many disparities displaying the undeniable disparity gap in our state and the recent Executive Order 21-3 provides an opportunity to ensure that as we plan we also plan to close the longstanding disparity gaps in our state.
While our state laws clearly state that the transition to a clean energy future should be inclusive, the continued lack of representation of black and brown leaders in our state’s energy and infrastructure planning has led to lack of information and lack of equally distributed fiscal support for efficiency, clean energy, and resilience in our communities.
Executive Order 21-3 is a Climate Action order which is needed to help our state complete resilience planning and infrastructure upgrades. CT however has long been investing in the “clean energy transition and in Demand reduction. Several laws on the books already fund the expansion of clean energy. Unfortunately, the state has still missed the mark on creating an equitable transition. To have an equity based transition the following efforts would be made, and the following type of metrics would be set as state goals.
An Equitable energy transition would like this:
- Schools and communities would have equal access to information that would inform them on how to prepare, the causes of climate change, and information on how to lower our emissions and how to lower the harmful impacts on the places we live.
- We would allocate funding to groups who have been under-supported, and under funded. This funding would be specific to engaging communities and addressing the impacts of climate change, which are well defined.
- Communities of color would be included in the planning.
- Working families would have equal access to the funding for resilience upgrades like insulation, solar, heat pumps, and flood protection.
- Black and Brown residents would have equal access to clean energy and efficiency job opportunities, and increased opportunities to own these types of businesses, and to procure state contracts.
- All residents would have access to housing/shelter that allows them to maintain safe living conditions in storms, sea level rise, heat waves, and cold snaps.
- We would focus on PUBLIC benefits over private benefits in our clean energy transition planning.
The road to energy equity and climate resilience go hand in hand but the transition has been far from simple and has lacked inclusion all along the way. If we do not act intentionally, ensuring our focus is inclusive in our planning and that we are equitable and inclusive in the funding of our climate resilience efforts, then we will quite literally be leaving people uniformed and in the dark.
The time is NOW for proper inclusive funding of resilience upgrades and support for statewide climate and energy nexus education for the many communities that have been left behind. These communities must be engaged to ensure that they are prepared, to ensure that they are not left behind to suffer the hardest impacts of the changes which are happening.
Learn more at Efficiency for All and educational support at Green EcoWarriors.
Leticia Colon de Mejias is an appointed NEJAC member, Policy chair at the National Building Performance Association, MBI member, GC3 Equity member, Awarded building Scientist, and published Author of several Climate and Environmental Action Books and graphic texts.