Stakeholder Engagement and Recommendations for Action

In many instances, college/university practices actively hinder progress on climate justice, particularly as it pertains to centering and empowering surrounding communities that have been marginalized and made vulnerable through past and present systemic injustices.

Opportunities to address this need abound. The following perspectives and recommendations, informed in part by a stakeholder engagement process, provide actionable steps through which individual institutions could advance climate justice in climate action planning and/or parallel strategic planning efforts at the institution/system level.

Chaz Briscoe, Chantal Madray, and Rachel Valetta. (2022). “Higher Education’s Role in Advancing Climate Justice,” Second Nature: Cambridge, MA.

Processes and Best Practices

Creative Thought Forum: Climate Change and Environmental Justice

School of Advanced Research Creative Thought Forum, a lecture series (recording available) of different perspectives, possible technological solutions and many ways to address the current spectrum of environmental issues.

DEI roadmap— Best Practices

Chapman’s DEI working group complied this 13 page document to discuss their current state of DEI, and how it can be changed to install an even more substantial cultural shift on their campus.

DEI— Best Practices

The National Association of Colleges and Employers share best practices for how to create a more sustainable, equitable, and diverse workplace, including resources about diversifying the hiring process, the importance of career development for first-generation students, among other topics.

Evidence Based Best DEI Practices

University of California, Merced Academic Personnel Office provides a list of 12 evidence-based resources/ scholarly articles that help to advance faculty DEI.

NAACP 10,000 Steps to Environmental and Climate Justice Project Toolkit

The NAACP’s toolkit from its Youth and College Leadership Initiative on environmental justice (EJ) and climate justice (CJ) includes: History of EJ, effects of climate change, what CJ is, makes the connection between EJ and CJ, their program/role of youth, outlines their “10,000 steps” solution. The NAACP also offers the Climate Justice Initiative Toolkit to provide historical context on how climate justice intersects with the Civil Rights Movement and broader human rights movements, while highlight climate change issues, solutions, and call to action.

Northeastern University Climate Justice Action Plan

The Climate Justice Action Plan (CJAP) is a community-driven planning initiative, the purpose of which is to recommend a roadmap for Northeastern University to be carbon-free. Focus areas will include, but will not be limited to, energy consumption and sourcing, climate justice, transportation, climate resilience, and the University’s ability to affect change through its strengths in academia and research.

Partnership Pedagogy Toolkit – University of Oregon

Provides faculty and other curious parties with information about how and why to do community-engaged learning and participatory action research, with an emphasis on social justice, economic dignity, and empowered communities.

Penn State: Best Practices

Penn State’s portfolio of best practices and challenges going forward, and how understanding the challenges will lead to potential best practices.

A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy

The Climate justice Alliance offers a resource for the regenerative economy as a solution to the intersecting crises of income and wealth inequality and climate change. This full pdf offers community groups, policy advocates, and policymakers a pathway to solutions that work for frontline communities and workers. These ideas have been collectively strategized by community organizations and leaders from across multiple frontline and grassroots networks and alliances to ensure that regenerative economic solutions and ecological justice—under a framework that challenges capitalism and both white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy—are core to any and all policies.

The Spectrum of Community Engagement to Ownership

Charts a pathway for working with communities towards equitable action there’s room here for higher ed to think about what this chart both in context of the college community and the greater one

Top 10 Steps for Advancing DEI in Higher Education

PeopleAdmin, a software provider across higher education in the US includes their top 10 steps for advancing DEI. In short, they are: Listen, Participate, Learn, Join, Collaborate, Aspire, Plan, Assess, Speak Up and Be Accountable.

UC’s DRAFT Framework for Incorporating Environmental and Climate Justice into Climate Action

After definitions, the framework poses a series of questions that should be asked when creating a Climate Action Plan using DEIAJ as categories. For example, “what specific groups, on or off campuses, are directly and indirectly impacted by this policy proposal or action? Particularly think about marginalized groups and those historically not represented at “X University.” Be as detailed as possible in brainstorming groups such as student commuters from “X”. Includes many practical and tangible recommendations in the categories of “community power for all,” “economy,” “health impacts,” “land use and resources, (includes support of indigenous communities)” and “waste.” Emphasizes community outreach as a method of equity evaluation.

Universal Design of DEI practices to implement in higher education

University of Washington’s Universal Design in Higher Education (UDHE) is a framework that can be applied to any institution/ community, understanding that there are a plethora of factors contributing to the DEI or climate justice status. The framework includes a list of UDHE principles and the process for implementation.

University of California Center for Climate Justice

UC systems’ center for climate justice website. Contains research, education and engagement projects as well as resources on what climate justice is and information about just transitons, indigenous climate action, community resilience and adaptation, climate education and engagement, as well as social, racial and environmental justice.

University of Washington Program on Climate Change

The University of Washington’s Program on Climate Change provides an anonymous feedback from to inform ongoing improvements to its climate initiatives that serves as a model for universities to implement.

USCAN Principles of Working Together/Jemez Principles in Action

Guidelines for how USCAN’s member base works together to accelerate national climate action and network expansion from JEDI framework

World Resources Institute

Large resource database from the World Resources Institute that allows filtering of climate resilience resources into categories of business, cities, climate, economics, equity etc.

Regional and Scalar Considerations

Exploring support for climate justice policies in the United States

Yale Climate Change Communication: A report on and extensive research, looking to analyse and gain support in three areas of climate justice: an economic transition to clean energy, renewable energy sources and investment in frontline communities.

MiEJScreen: Environmental Justice Screening Tool

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy created the MiEJScreen tool as “an interactive mapping tool that identifies Michigan communities that may be disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards. The map allows users to explore the environmental, health, and socioeconomic conditions within a specific community, region, or across the entire state.”

Regional Equity Atlas

A research, education, and organizing project dedicated to promoting stronger, healthier, and more sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Currently in development, the Regional Equity Atlas 3.0 will include an online mapping tool and interpretive website, which will enable us to understand how well different neighborhoods, communities, and populations across our region are able to access the resources and opportunities they need to meet their basic needs and advance their health and well-being.

Indicators and Success Metrics

Climate Justice Report; State of California

California State Climate Justice Report provides a number of metrics for tracking climate justice progress.

DEI Assessment in STEM— Gender Equity

Scientific Sociological Journal, looking to increase awareness about a DEI tool looking to better advance change in STEM societies in terms of gender equality, and their opportunities for catalyzing reform.

En-ROADS toolkit

En-ROADS offers an interactive climate simulator.

Energy Justice: Key Concepts and Metrics Relevant to EERE Transportation Projects

This resource provides guidance on developing community-wide metrics and tools for addressing equity in transportation projects but these principles can be broadened outside of transportation and made specific to higher-ed institutions.

How Business Schools Are Really Doing With Diversity

Harvard Business Publishing: An indepth look at how business schools are currently dealing with diversity in their field, including gender parity, diversity initiatives and how business schools can accelerate these initiatives.

Inclusive Sustainability: Environmental Justice in Higher Education

UC Santa Cruz conducted a census survey providing methods and indicators that can be adopted or adapted for other institutions.

Justice in 100 Metrics

Tools for Measuring Equity in 100% Renewable Energy Policy Implementation.

A New Dataset Integrating Public Socioeconomic, Physical Risk, and Housing Data for Climate Justice Metrics: A Test-Case Study in Miami

Community-wide metrics and indicators for climate justice specifically with regards to housing.

Participatory Action Research and Evaluation

A community-driven approach to research, evaluation, and social change that intentionally includes the people who are most affected by an inquiry in the design and execution of the process.

Practicing Equity-Centered Assessment

An organization that serves to improve teaching and leadership methods, they provide a substantial and informative list of questions to ask about your own institution/community to get a better understanding of where your current DEI status lies.

Pro-Publica Poision in the Air

The EPA allows polluters to turn neighborhoods into “sacrifice zones” where residents breathe carcinogens. ProPublica reveals where these places are in a first-of-its-kind map and data analysis.

University of Denver— Inclusive Assessment

An extensive blueprint from the University of Denver’s Office of Teaching & Learning, includes a blueprint, key tennants and resources for completing an Inclusive Assessment.

University of Michigan DEI Toolkit— Evaluation and Assessment

From the extensive and multifaceted University of Michigan Toolkit, this section focuses on Evaluation and Assessment, as part of their 5 year plan is to develop accurate and transparent metrics that will be able to portray if they are on track to reach their strategic objectives.

USEPA’s EJScreen: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool

The EPA provides an environmental justice screening tool with nationally consistent data and an approach that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports

Whitehouse CEQ: Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

This tool identifies communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. These communities are located in census tracts that are at or above the thresholds in one or more of eight categories of criteria.

Cross-Sector Case Studies

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University led climate event preparedness and mitigation in Southeastern rural communities. 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.”

Austin’s climate equity plan

Austin CAP- grounds climate action in racial equity, includes Equity in Health Outcomes, Affordability, Accessibility, Accountability, Community Capacity, Just Transition to Green Jobs, Cultural Preservation.

Building Equity into US Urban Green Space Infrastructure Planning

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and The New School’s Urban Systems Lab produced this webinar, discussing the findings of their study on how cities and urban planning can be beneficial in addressing broader urban challenges, like social equity.

City of Asheville

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

City of Cleveland

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

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

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.

Clean Energy Advisory Board for the City of Atlanta

Made up of most energy burdened zip codes to stay accountable to frontline communities:

Climate Justice by Design

Multnomah County, Oregon’s current initative to rethinking the way the community can thrive by pairing local government, community-based organizations, and philanthropy together to enhance local capacity to build equitable and sustainable communities.

Dallas Equity Indicators

The Dallas Equity Indicators framework is composed of five broad themes: Economic Opportunity, Education, Neighborhoods and Infrastructure, Justice and Government, and Public Health. Each of the five themes is broken down into four topics. Each topic is then subdivided into three indicators. The goal of the resource is to measure progress towards equity.

DEI in Climate Policy and Tech

Aspen Tech Policy Hub, the Aspen Institute Energy & Environment Program and Green 2.0 worked together to facilitate a widespread and multi-field roundtable to produce a report that includes recommendations for better incorporating DEI in Climate Policy & Technology.

DEI in the Food Industry

Food Industry Association and their best practices, resources, discussions and webinars about the current state and where to progress in the future for DEI in the food industry.

Denver Climate Protection Fund 5-Year Plan

Climate protection fund (sales tax increase) was passed by Denver residents in 2019, this plan outlines how money should be spent across sectors, includes job creation and focus on resiliency and underserved communities.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Environmental Justice – Student and Postdoc Spotlight Speaker Series

Recorded presentations on topics such as prenatal exposure to chemical mixtures and executive function among adolescents, urban oil drilling and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in personal care products.

Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan

WE ACT NYC is a nonprofit that collaborated and listened to the local communities of New York City to produce a climate action plan over seven months, making sure that the voices and concerns of frontline communities were addressed in a resilience framework, while achieving the climate goals of Northern Manhattan.

Portland Community College (PCC)

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). 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 and created a Take 5 Toolkit for implementing critical race theory, including identity cards and consensus based decision making tools. 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.

Santa Clara Valley Water DEI Program

The Santa Clara Valley Water district includes their current and future DEI status, in terms of advancing racial equity, creating a more inclusive work force and making sure all employees are considering DEI in their daily work through the annual Employee Development and Performance Plan.

The State of Oregon’s Climate Equity Blueprint

The Climate Equity Blueprint provides a set of best practices to guide government decisions and tools for programmatic staff to apply an equity lens as they design state agency policies, processes, and programs to address climate change. In addition to best practices, the Blueprint provides guiding questions, case studies, and resources to assist state agencies in developing and implementing equity-based work.

State of Oregon Environmental Justice Task Force

“Environmental justice communities” include minority and low-income communities, tribal communities, and other communities traditionally underrepresented in public processes.

Three Strategies for Improving DEI in Design & Construction

HOK (Aviation+ Transportation) had a roundtable to discuss DEI in design and construction projects. The three strategies: analyze the barriers to DEI, collaborate with the community and practice what you preach.

Truckee Meadows Community College

Truckee Meadows Community College built climate justice into the foundation of their Climate Action Plan. 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

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

The UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative funds system-wide collaborations for climate justice and climate resilience in research, education, and campus operations. 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. Additional links: UC Center for Climate Justice, UC Center for Climate, Health and Equity, Bending the Curve climate solutions course, UC Irvine’s Community Resilience Program, UC Global Climate Leadership Council, UC Sustainability Policy Steering Committee, UC Sustainability Offices and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa’s Environmental Justice Guide includes 6 key self-study resources: University of Iowa faculty and courses focused on environmental justice; books, peer-reviewed research, and news articles; films and videos; podcasts and audio; technology, programs, and organizations focused on environmental justice; and pathways to support environmental justice

Washington State’s Health Environment for All (HEAL) Act

From the State of Washington comes an additional model for implementing justice principles in the form of a statewide mandate, the Healthy Environmental for All (HEAL) Act in 2021. Useful for a climate action practitioner is that the legislation provides an example of how higher education could implement justice priorities in each of its own departments. These same departments represent potential collaborators on localized climate justice initiatives. Each covered agency must include an environmental justice implementation plan within the agency’s strategic plan by January 1, 2023. This plan must include four components: 1) goals and actions; 2) metrics to track and measure accomplishments; 3) methods to provide equitable access and ensure nondiscrimination; and 4) strategies to ensure compliance with existing federal and state laws and policies related to environmental justice. Importantly, the HEAL Act requires that each covered agency create, adopt, and implement a community engagement plan. Washington State’s Fall 2020 Environmental Justice Task Force report, offers recommendations for how environmental justice can be centered in the goals of the state and how health disparities can be addressed and reduced. Their recommendations come from four areas: measurable goal recommendations, model policy recommendations, environmental health disparities map recommendations and community engagement recommendations.


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