Racial justice and climate justice are inextricably linked.

From extreme weather, to air pollution and rising seas, climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color, immigrants, and low-income communities across the United States (U.S.). According to Mary Annaïse Heglar, a climate justice essayist and former writer-in-residence at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, climate change “started with conquest, genocides, slavery, and colonialism.” Heglar adds “that is the moment when White men’s relationship with living things became extractive and disharmonious. Everything was for the taking; everything was for sale.”

Davarian L. Baldwin, professor of American Studies and at Trinity College and author of In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities, highlights that on-going social unrest and activism across the U.S. have prompted more colleges and universities to examine their racial history and acknowledge their roles in various forms of white supremacy. Forms of white supremacy, within the realm of higher education, include, but are not limited to, slavery, land seizures, residential segregation, and neighborhood demolitions. Work to understand and address these historical wrongdoings have only just begun, and will continue to be an ongoing process.

With ongoing efforts to meaningfully and intentionally integrate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) into their climate action plans (CAPs), colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to build campus-community relationships, leverage cross-sector partnerships, and accelerate the work of racial and climate justice.

Definitions are important.

Anchoring terms like racial justice and climate justice that are stable and consistent in language allow us to work toward stable and consistent goals.

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Defining racial injustice and racial inequity

Racial injustice is the systemic unfair treatment of people based on their race, resulting in inequitable opportunities and outcomes.

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing” Ibram X. Kendi from How to Be an Antiracist (p. 18)

Defining equity & racial justice

Equity is “to create conditions that enable just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper and reach their full potential.” Partnership for Southern Equity

Racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all.” Racial Justice in Education: Resource Guide

Defining climate injustice

Climate injustice refers specifically to the unfair distribution of benefits and damages related to climate change. Again, a handful of humans profit at the direct expense of many.” Post Carbon Institute – Resilience program by Sam Bliss

Defining climate justice

Climate   justice   links   human  rights   and  development  to  achieve  a  human-centred  approach, safeguarding  the  rights  of  the  most  vulnerable  and sharing  the  burdens  and  benefits  of  climate change and  its  resolution  equitably  and  fairly.  Climate  justice  is  informed  by  science,  responds  to science and acknowledges the need for equitable stewardship of the world’s resources.” Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice

Linking racial and climate justice

According to Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance, “climate change is the result of a legacy of extraction, of colonialism, of slavery. A lot of times when people talk about environmental justice they go back to the 1970s or ‘60s. But I think about the slave quarters. I think about people who got the worst food, the worst health care, the worst treatment, and then when freed, were given lands that were eventually surrounded by things like petrochemical industries. The idea of killing black people or indigenous people, all of that has a long, long history that is centered on capitalism and the extraction of our land and our labor in this country…For us, as part of the climate justice movement, to separate those things is impossible.” Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change,” an interview by Beth Gardiner.


Climate Reality Project

Diversity – the practice or quality of including, involving, understanding, and appreciating individuals within the context of, but not limited to, the social constructs of: race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, nationality, documentation status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, along with physical and mental abilities and disabilities.

National Association for Campus Activities definitions of DEIAJ

Diversity – the practice or quality of including, involving, understanding, and appreciating individuals within the context of, but not limited to, the social constructs of: race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, nationality, documentation status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, along with physical and mental abilities and disabilities.

Diversity Toolkit

Free online resource that “shares best practices and other tools, data, and guides to help companies, regulatory agencies, suppliers, and individuals advance their Diversity & Inclusion efforts.” Additional links organized into resource guide inc. guide to minority serving institutions.

A global perspective on diversity and inclusion in work organizations

This journal article presents an agenda for future research on diversity and inclusion in the work space. The article covers three overarching challenges: To develop more context- specific definitions of diversity and inclusion, Include dimensions pertinent to a global context in the definition of diversity and inclusion, and to consider the impact of diversity and inclusion practices on performance outcomes across countries as well as within multinational corporations.

Building Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Into Your Sustainability Program

This article builds on the foundational knowledge of both individuals and institutional relationships to further define hoe sustainability programs can align and center DEI into sustianability program. This article helps sustainability practitioners evaluate their programs and their instatutional connections so that DEI is at the core of their work.

Diversity will enable climate innovation and resilience

This article gives examples on how diversity has enabled innovation and resilience. For example is that it can create a place where healthy disagreement and debate can happen, it can build a consensus through diverse ideas.


Climate Action Isn’t Reaching the Most Vulnerable — But it Could

World Resources Institute article discusses seven ways that climate change can prevent worsening inequalities and make a zero-carbon world a fairer one.

Climate Equity or Climate Justice?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature: differentiating between climate equity and climate justice, while introducing terms such as a climate of injustice and the equity prism, and their implications in the large scope of climate justice.

Equity and Engagement in Climate Response

This article by the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington addresses how local governments in Washington state can identify and engage with vulnerable populations that are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

How to embed equity and inclusivity in climate action planning

This article looks at how to deliver inclusive and equitable climate action the article believes that embedding inclusivity and equity should be an ongoing and iterative process throughput the planning and implementation of climate actions.

Integrating Equity in Climate Action Planning

Cleveland Office of Sustainability offers examples to support institutions in creating an equitable climate action plan. This resource also provides a list of definitions for an equity framework.

National Association for Campus Activities

The National Assication for Campus Activities provides definitions of DEIAJ. Its definition of equity is an intentional, design‐centered approach and concept that promotes fair treatment, access, opportunities, resources, and advancement of all people while striving to eliminate barriers and disparities that may have prevented the full participation of a marginalized group.

National Association for Campus Activites definitions of DEIAJ

The NACA provides definitions of DEIAJ. Their definition of inclusion is the implementation of accessible opportunities and resources and active, intentional, ongoing engagement and practice that empowers and promotes individuals to create a sense of belonging, support, cultural competence, and humility, with diversity as the core.

Persons with disabilities and climate action: How can we be more inclusive?

The International Disability Alliance, the European Disability Forum, the Pacific Disability Forum, Stakeholders Group of Persons with Disabilities for Sustainable Development, United Nations High Commission for Refugees and International Displacement Monitoring Center co-hosted an event in the framework of the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) 2021 to discuss the relationship between disability and climate change. As the first one in history, the event focused on the need to build bridges between disability rights, environmental and climate justice movements to ensure that all are included.

Racial Equity Tools

A list of equity resources for organizations including important fundamentals, learn concepts, understand issues and plan strategies.

Why equity is fundamental in climate change policy research

This article published in the Global Environmental Change Journal highlights the importance of why equity plays such a critical role in climate policy research.

World Resources Institute

The WRI provides resources on building equitable economies, with many examples of projects they have such as Climate Resilient and Transformative Adaptation for Agriculture, LandMark to protect Indigenous land, and Adaptation Finance and Investment


Approaching Climate Change through the Lens of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

This National Park Service article describes a diversity, equity and inclusion rubric that can be used to elicit solutions and guide discussion from workshop participants to collaboratively envision equitable solutions to climate change.

Climate Action Strategy Workshops and the Need for More Language Accessibility

Miami Dade County’s Office of Resilience conducted a series of workshops that invited the community to give their input into the drafting of the County’s climate action strategy plan. The goal of the workshop is to produce an accessible avenue for community members to take the the lead on local climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. In order to accomplish this goal, language accessibility is key when considering effective citizen engagement and maximized impact

Inclusive Adaptation: A Benefit Multiplier for Climate Action and Women Peace and Security

Webinar hosted by Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security on how meaningful inclusion of women in local-level climate adaptation efforts can multiply benefits by strengthening climate response, gender equality, and security. The webinar highlights key findings from the accompanying report.

Inclusive Climate Action: An Emerging Perspective

USAID report defining elements of inclusive climate action, guiding principles, best practices, and emerging case studies. This report also includes recommendations for how inclusive climate action can be implemented at sectoral levels like waste management, transportation, agriculture, and energy efficient buildings.

National Association for Campus Activities definitions of DEIAJ

The NACA defines accessibility as the premise of minimizing the disadvantages by creating intentional space, means, and opportunities where individuals can feel empowered to acquire information, engage in the same interactions, and complete tasks in an autonomous and independent manner.

People Matters: Why Quantifiying Inclusion is key to Climate Adaptation

This article explains how social inclusion is central to climate adaption, and mentions how failure to consider the negative impacts that came with climate solutions could lead to more impoverishment and inequality.

The Power of Inclusive Intergenerational Climate Activism

This Yes! Magazine Article uplifts youth social movements applying an intersectional lens to climate justice in the U.S. and details how multigenerational collaboration has made climate action more of a priority at the policy level.


Accessibility on Campus

Lumen Learning course to support practitioners in identifying the implications of accessibility on campuses and in communities.

Accessible Climate Strategies

Accessible Climate Strategies, is dedicated to shaping an inclusive, accessible future for people with disabilities. Climate change effects affect people with disabilities, so as awareness for climate change grows, this platform works with policymakers, businesses, educators, advocates, and other allies to draw connections between disability and climate change.

Accessible University

The Accessible University defines accessibility as an umbrella term for all aspects which influence a person’s ability to function within an environment – and making accommodations that allow for participation.

Disability Human Rights and Climate Justice: The Urgent Need for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action

The Harvard Law School Project on Disability published a report detailing “how a disability human rights approach should inform climate action, particularly, why disability-inclusive climate justice requires empowering persons with disabilities to participate directly in the policy- and decision-making processes surrounding climate mitigation and adaption measures, as well as their subsequent implementation.” This includes case studies from the Global South on collaborative climate action planning with people with disabilities.

Disability Inclusive Climate Action Research Program

The Disability Inclusive Climate Action Research Program based at McGill University in Montreal, Canada “works with disability and climate activists and experts from around the world to generate, co-produce, share, and translate knowledge on how efforts to combat climate change can be designed and implemented in ways that respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of disabled persons.”

Disability Justice Climate Change and Eco-Ableism

Columbia University Climate Conversations presented a webinar panel of disabled activists in the climate sphere. They discussed the ways that disabled folks have been cast aside within activism spaces, how disabled individuals are at a higher risk of climate disasters, and the wide-spread prevalence of ableism, especially casual ableism, in our society.

Global Disability Justice in Climate Disasters: Mobilizing People with Disabilities as Change Agents

Deaf researchers from California State University East Bay, UC Berkeley, and University of Sydney Australia published an article in the Health Affairs journal to recommend how policy-makers and practitioners can integrate disability justice into climate action planning. “In this article we present case studies from different global regions to illustrate how disability is overlooked in responding to climate-related health impacts and disaster planning. We also draw particular attention to mutual aid networks led by disabled people in adapting to climate-related health impacts.”

Second Nature Resource Library

General resource library by Second Nature concerning climate action on campuses in the past, reflections and best practices.

We’re On Our Own: How People with Disabilities are Left Out of Climate Planning

PBS Article: Identifies gaps in the infrastructure to ensure people with disabilities are included in climate adaptation and mitigation planning initiatives.


Climate Access

This organization is a nonprofit organization that is focused on building political and public support for climate change. They do this by promoting effective communication and engagement approaches. Today the organization is applying these strategies and best practices to help communities across the United States, including communities that are at most risk from impacts of climate change.

Climate Change and Access to Justice

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute article serves as an introduction to the importance of climate change as a humanitarian and devleopment issue. The article identifies the potential of access to climate. The main finding is that empowering low-income and historically disadvantaged communities in developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change can help advance climate justice.

Climate Justice Alliance

Just Transition Principles Report; Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and in a waste-free way. The transition itself must be just and equitable, redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. Just Transition describes both where we are going and how we get there.

Climate Justice— UN Sustainable Development Goals

The UN sustainable goals definition of climate justice, under Goal 13: Climate Action.

Environmental Justice Considerations in Climate Action Planning

Dudek’s Planning and Urban Design Group explores environmental justice in climate action planning using California as a case study. California has many environmental justice communities that are often on the frontlines to the effects of climate change. Dudek proposes three keys to environmental justice: 1) state regulations around EJ, 2) funding to accomplish projects, and 3) outreach to and inclusion of environmental justice communities.

Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool

In order to better meet the Envrionmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) responsibilities related to the protection of public health and the environment, EPA has developed a new environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool called EJScreen. It is based on nationally consistent data and an approach that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports.

EPA Draft Strategic Plan to Address Climate Change and Advance Environmental Justice and Equity

The plan communicates and provides a roadmap to achieve EPA’s and the Presidential Adminisitration priorities over the next four years. The plan is focused on climate change with a strategic goal to advance environmental justice and civil rights.

Federal Environmental Justice Tracker

The Federal Environmental Justice Tracker is designed to provide up-to-date information on the Biden administration’s environmental justice commitments, and progress made on those commitments.

Justice in Urban Climate Plans: How and Where Cities Are Integrating Equity and Climate

The Boston University Initiative on Cities and the Institute for sustainable energy hosted a panel discussion to share the latest research on equity in urban climate plans and hear from current and former city officials working to integrate justice and sustainability. They analyzed policy trends, broad contextual shifts, and working with communities.

Multnomah County’s Equity and Empowerment Lens

The City of Portland Oregon and Multnomah County provide a case study on integrating equity in climate action planning. Multnomah County’s Equity and Empowerment Lens Framework is a tool for thinking strategically about equity in climate action planning.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy— Climate Justice

This encyclopedia includes a vast array of questions, definitions and issues involving climate justice, including isolation & integrationism, intergenerational justice, the burden-sharing question etc.

Unleashing the Power of the People: Lessons on Public Engagement forEnvironmental and Climate Justice

The organization was established to support local leaders organizing at the intersection of environmental issues and civil rights. Ensuring that communities are in the driver’s seat of climate action. This article is a collection of case briefs profiles that show the achievements in environmental and climate justice advocacy.

What is Climate Justice (University of California Center for Climate Justice)

The University of California Center for Climate Justice defines climate justice and lists the “Six Pillars of Climate Justice.” Their definition of climate justice seeks solutions that address the root causes of climate change and in doing so, address a broad range of social, racial, and environmental injustices. Solutions are organized into six pillars: Social, Racial and Environmental Justice, Indigenous Climate Action, Community Resilience and Adaptation, Natural Climate Solutions, and Climate Education and Engagement.

What is Climate Justice (Yale Climate Connections)

Yale Climate Connections’ definition of climate justice and the three factors to consider when thinking about climate justice in an educational or societal manner.

Frontline and Fenceline Communities

Greenbelt’s land use planning dictionary

Greenbelt provides a land use planning dictionary that defines frontline communities as communities that experience continuing injustice—including people of color, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those in rural areas, and indigenous people—and face a legacy of systemic, largely racialized, inequity that influences their living and working places, the quality of their air and water, and their economic opportunities.

How Can Climate Action Be Inclusive?

Climate Links is a global knowledge portal for Climate and Development Practitioners. In this article, Climate Links defines what inclusive climate action is, why it is important, and case studies. The article details how inclusive climate change can be achieved, by mentioning some best practices that have been identified, such as: consistently identify holistic solutions, ensure participation of all stakeholders, form partnerships, and measure impact. In this article on gender and social inclusion, Climate Links details how people who are impacted by climate change the most are women, youth, Indigenous people and marginalized people because of the existing inequalities in climate action. So in order to help those affected the most, Climate Links proposes gender equitable and inclusive action is needed in order to sustain bold climate ambition.

Inclusivity in Climate Action: The Importance of Public Engagement in Delivering Equitable Outcomes

The Climate Institute explores inclusivity across community engagement, policy design and implementation, and fair distribution of impacts.


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