This page features case studies from colleges, universities, and cities that incorporated diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) principles into their climate action planning processes and plans.

Within Higher Education

Appalachian State University

Climate Justice Initiative: Climate event preparedness and mitigation in Southeastern rural communities

Summary: In 2020, Appalachian State University was one of five universities selected to help communities in the Southeastern United States evaluate the long-term risks of flooding and hurricanes and boost regional resilience — particularly in rural and underserved communities. As part of the AT&T Climate Resiliency Community Challenge, Appalachian State researchers focused on assessing how socioeconomic disparities that affect rural communities contribute to climate vulnerability. Led by Dr. Tammy Kowalczyk, professor of accounting and sustainable business in the Walker College of Business and director of the University’s Impact Clinic, Appalachian State’s research team contrasted national data with hyperlocal information, finding that while flooding, landslides and wildfires pose threats in rural Western North Carolina, the region has less cellular and data coverage for early response to natural disasters, fewer mitigation policies in place, and less capacity for fire, police and emergency management expenditures. The study also noted that poor rural and underserved communities in Appalachia often lack a voice in regulation setting and planning in regards to climate change initiatives. The study suggests “moving forward, climate vulnerability, exposure and resilience must be assessed in terms of the socioeconomic disparity and actual experience of the people living and working within each community.” Appalachian State Chief Sustainability Officer Lee Ball said, “This research aligns with our university’s commitment to social equity and sets the stage for improving rural communities’ preparation and response to major climate events.”

Portland Community College

Climate Justice Initiative: Portland Community College’s (PCC) Sustainability Department directed the school’s climate action planning effort to incorporate climate justice, social equity and resiliency into the heart of their updated Climate Action Plan (CAP)

Summary: PCC’s updated plan, 2021 Climate Action Plan: Resiliency, Equity and Education for a Just Transition, is the college’s five-year roadmap towards climate justice. Unified under a shared vision, PCC’s 2021 Climate Action Plan establishes a new carbon neutrality goal of 2040 and outlines pathways for equity-focused climate action to be woven throughout operations, academics, student engagement and future planning. A PCC-specific Climate Action Equity Guide was used in the planning process to promote equitable and inclusive processes, address systemic racism and ensure that both impacts of global climate change and benefits from solutions are equitably distributed. The college also included community stakeholders in the process for the first time. PCC’s 2021 CAP has four focus areas, two of which address PCC’s GHG emissions from its operations, a section focused on education and outreach to ensure the PCC community has the tools, resources and knowledge to lead in just climate action, and a section on resiliency to help PCC equitably adapt to global climate change. Each focus area has five year goals and associated strategies, vetted through the Climate Action Equity Guide, to set PCC on the path to 2040 carbon neutrality and climate justice.

Truckee Meadows Community College

Climate Justice Initiative: Truckee Meadows Community College built climate justice into the foundation of their Climate Action Plan

Summary: Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) has worked with Second Nature to develop their long term Climate Action Plan, and has integrated equity metrics into the fabric of that plan. TMCC also acknowledges and incorporates justice into their advancements towards a “Green Campus”. Their Office of Sustainability, Equity and Inclusion works intersectionality to promote sustainable and equitable practices among students and faculty.

University of British Columbia

Climate Justice Initiative: The University of British Columbia made climate justice a strategic priority in their Climate Emergency Engagement: Final Report & Recommendations

Summary: In January 2021, UBC released its Climate Emergency Engagement: Final Report & Recommendations, which outlines the university’s response to the climate emergency through a justice lens. The report details the meaning of “embedding a lens of climate justice” (pg 11) and delves into recommendations about what climate justice on UCB’s campus could/should look like. Some of their detailed recommendations include: prioritizing BIPOC students & community engagement, demonstrating community leadership on climate justice, expanding educational opportunities and resources on climate justice for the community, amongst others.

University of California System

Climate Justice Initiative: UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative funds system-wide collaborations for climate justice and climate resilience in research, education, and campus operations.

Summary: University of California (UC) President Michael Drake approved funding in 2021-2022 for the system’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative to support the following six system-wide collaborations for climate justice and climate resilience in research, education, and campus operations.

Education and Research

Create a series of climate justice course modules and pilot as a course at two UC campuses. Develop a Climate Justice Science Shop to facilitate connections between researchers and community groups by developing a platform and piloting with 5 community groups. This project will be managed by the new system-wide UC Center for Climate Justice.

Establish a centralized research hub that coordinates and amplifies the efforts of the UC’s climate-health research community. Efforts include creating climate and health curriculum and faculty development guide; outreach program and system-wide colloquium. This project will be managed by the new system-wide UC Center for Climate, Health and Equity.


Build on UC’s Bending the Curve climate solutions course to expand the curriculum with ten pilot modules on risk, resilience and adaptation.


Develop and deliver train-the-trainer trainings to advance community-driven, equity-focused climate action. The content and process will be designed as a living framework of current and emerging best practices, local resources and tools, and opportunities for advancing the field. This project will be managed by UC Irvine’s Community Resilience Program.


Continue the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion- (JEDI) Centered Campus Climate Resilience Planning project that launched in 2021. Phase two of this project will complete resilience assessments resulting in a report on location and system-wide vulnerabilities, a resilience planning integration guide, and a summary of the status of completing resilience plans on each campus.

Engage a consultant facilitator to guide the process of transforming the UC CNI and the UC Sustainable Practices Policy to be grounded in the principles underlying diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. The consultant will plan and facilitate capacity building workshops for all UC sustainability staff, sustainability policy working group chairs, and the membership of the UC Global Climate Leadership Council and UC Sustainability Policy Steering Committee. This project is foundational to implementing the Learning commitment in the UC Sustainability Offices and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement.

Outside of Higher Education

City of Asheville

Climate Justice Initiative: Resilience planning to protect most vulnerable communities

Summary: In January of 2020, the Asheville City Council declared a climate emergency, and has since been working to create a Climate Action Plan in collaboration with frontline communities. Immediately following the declaration, the Council instituted Resolution 20-25 that acknowledges the urgent need to combat climate change and the disproportionate impact the climate crisis has on the communities of color and low-income communities in Asheville. Before constructing their Climate Action Plan, the City Council held individual interviews with frontline community members, created a Climate Justice Data Map, and held a virtual public meeting to gather information and engage residents. Asheville’s Planning for Climate Resilience Report (2018) holds an in-depth vulnerability assessment of the specific environmental threats and a summary of resilience options and has been an asset to information gathering. In 2021, Asheville hopes to Develop Climate Justice story map, convene community story circles in four Asheville neighborhoods, create a Neighborhood PhotoVoice finalization and project visual installation, and determine next steps in partnership with frontline communities. Additional Link: Asheville’s Climate Justice Initiative webpage

City of Cleveland

Climate Justice Initiative: Climate Action Plan informed by Racial Equity Tool

Summary: The Cleveland (2018) Climate Action Plan (CAP) builds off the previous work of the 2013 CAP by furthering a series of cross-cutting priorities: (1) social and racial equity, (2) good jobs, green jobs, (3) resilience to the impacts of climate change, and (4) business leadership. The Cleveland Climate Action Plan addresses five “question areas” related to climate equity: language, accountability & data, disproportional impacts, economic opportunity, and neighborhood engagement. Equity in climate planning, in particular, ensures the just distribution of the benefits of climate protection efforts and alleviates unequal burdens created by climate change. The Cleveland Climate Action Plan focuses on racial equity as a way to deal with the false narratives about the involvement of communities of color in climate and to address the common equity factor of race across climate disparities. 

The Climate Action Plan’s Racial Equity Tool works by allowing practitioners the opportunity to analyze their climate objectives and proposed actions while also allowing a stage for implementation. Working with this climate action equity tool, the Cleveland Climate Action Plan sets cross-cutting priorities for the following areas: green building & energy efficiency, clean water & vibrant green space, clean energy, more local food & less waste, and sustainable transportation. For each of the five areas listed above, the tool provides a guiding question with which respondents can evaluate their solutions according to significant, moderate, and insignificant impacts.

City of Oakland

Climate Justice Initiative: Cross-sector Climate Action Coalition

Summary: The Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) is a cross-sector coalition dedicated to racial, economic and environmental justice. The coalition consists of over 30 community-based faith, labor, and environmental advocacy organizations and is led by a Steering Committee with representatives from The East Oakland Collective, Local Clean Energy Alliance, Planting Justice, and the Brower Dellums Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies & Action. The Steering Committee guides OCAC’s policy positions, endorsements, and campaigns, in addition to holding membership meetings, trainings and assemblies. OCAC’s mission hopes to bring together grassroots campaigns/initiatives to build community resilience. In July of 2020, the Oakland City Council adopted OCAC’s 2030 ECAP (Environmental Climate Action Plan) and a resolution for Oakland to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Within the 2030 ECAP, is the Racial Equity Impact Assessment & Implementation Guide that was developed by Oakland’s Department of Race and Equity alongside grassroots leadership.

City of Providence

Climate Justice Initiative: Developed Climate Justice Plan alongside frontline communities

Summary: The City of Providence has developed a detailed Climate Justice Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 that centers environmental justice and frontline communities. Their climate action plan was erected through collaboration between Providence’s Office of Sustainability and the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC), and through the collective acknowledgement of the city’s particular racial history, as its economic success was built upon the slave-labor that once existed in the US south. First, the city took a “greenhouse gas inventory”, illustrating Providence’s total carbon footprint broken down by major polluters, types of pollutants, and the communities most impacted. Using the inventory as a starting point, the plan outlines seven sections that have specific objectives, targets and actions to guide the city to carbon neutrality by 2050. Those sections are titled: “Lead by Example, Collaborative Governance and Accountability, Housing and Buildings, Community Health, Local and Regenerative Economy, Clean Energy, and Transportation.” The City’s Equity in Sustainability Report and Just Providence Framework helped inform this initiative.

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Header Photo Credit: Photo by Emil Widlund on Unsplash