Author: Emerald Cities Staff          Published: 8/7/2021       Emerald Cities Collaborative



Washington – Biden’s Building Back Better Agenda- is TURNING UP THE HEAT.   The White House just released the new interim guidelines for how  federal agencies are expected to implement The Justice40 initiative stipulated in Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

The guidance lays out an aggressive, no-nonsense schedule. Federal agencies have 30 days to describe how they will confer with communities on strategies to ensure that 40% of agency investments will advance environmental and climate justice and opportunities for historically neglected communities.  And within 60 days there must be a proposed plan. There are pilot programs launching now in selected program areas.  At the same time, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, The White House Council on Environmental Justice and DOE’s Energy Justice Team are working together – and with key community stakeholders — to refine definitions of disadvantaged communities and metrics for how 40% of climate investments will be assessed.

It’s unprecedented level of commitment to distributive justice, procedural justice and restorative justice.  We are excited, fully engaged and showing up to share our decade plus experience.

What Justice Works Looks Like: 

ECC’s eleven-year experience reveals that Environmental/Energy/Climate Justice requires firing on all cylinders.  driving demand for justice (top down) and supporting community needs.

Here are the highlights of the last few months.  This is how we do it.


Driving Demand for Justice 40

National Updates

Champions Matter:
White House/DOE Insights- Dr. Shalanda Baker, DOE joined ECC’s board/staff retreat in June to share the framework for the Administration’s Justice 40 agenda which she is co-leading. She and her team, including Dr. Tony Reames, are doing the foundational work of establishing standards, definitions, metrics and processes to get to results. Our board and staff got a boost getting signals from the top that this Justice work matters.
Addressing Structural Barriers:
Justice work requires 24/7, full circle, multi-level solutions. So Justice 40 is an unprecedented commitment to this work, but as we described in our op-ed piece in the Hill we need a Justice 100 Solution to not only address historical inequities but to open a new Justice frontier. We can’t just throw money at the problem, we need to dismantle the systemic and racial barriers that have made inequities the norm. Read the op-ed.
Policy Development: Equity 2.0

Justice does not come easily.  It requires changing the rules of the game and shifting policies, systems and business practices to do things differently.  Our team is firing on all cylinders, working in coalitions to move the policy needle closer to justice.

  • American Cities Climate Challenge. ECC is working with sustainability directors in the 25 American City Climate Challenge providing training and technical assistance on ways to embed economic inclusion policies and strategies within their climate policies.  Since January, ECC co-produced a 7-part webinar series on economic inclusion providing introductory language and tools, which was for most like learning a ‘foreign language’.  The notion of equity is pretty much solidly understood.  Economic inclusion, however, is equity 2.0.  It demands of sustainability directors new policy tools, working knowledge and relationships within and outside the city to harness the economic impact of their climate policies to be broadly accessible.
  • WERC – The work of WERC – water equity and resilience caucus, a water justice coalition of over 40 organizations is paying off. Our proposal for a 1% water infrastructure assessment, proposed by our subcommittee on jobs, businesses and training, is sticking. That could represent $200 million a year for community workforce programs.
  • Bay Area –San Francisco is continuing to confront the climate crisis we are facing. “Funding for climate equity is a huge step toward a zero net carbon future for San Francisco,” said Avni Jamdar, Regional Director at ECC. Budget Chair Haney and Supervisors Mandelman and Mar is addressing the climate crisis with a plan to add $1.4 million for an analysis of what’s needed, a climate equity hub to collect experts and information for all-electric retrofits, and grants for community-led climate action. Read press release.
  • Seattle – In part with ACCC and the city of Seattle, ECC worked to help get a new energy code passed that prohibits fossil fuels for water and space heating. The code was passed in January, seen as the best energy code in the country. The Seattle Energy Code impacts new construction and substantial alterations of commercial and 4+ story tall multi-family buildings. Without the proposed code changes, the City expects that greenhouse gas emissions from buildings to be at least 12% higher by 2050.
Energy Democracy Congressional Briefing
ECC, in partnership with the Energy Democracy Project, sponsored a Congressional Briefing with Senator Merkley of Oregon and Rep Barragan from Los Angeles (44th District) and community voices on the significance of policies that put low-income, communities of color as both producers and consumers of clean energy and to shift the energy sector from shareholders to community and public stakeholders. 

Minority Contracting

Program Updates

  • Boston Contractor Academy –  The Boston Contractor Academy completed its second cohort of minority, disadvantaged, and women-owned contractors in December 2020.  The program has roughly 30% of contractors that joined the Academy are signatory contractors. The graduates are now successfully competing for opportunities in the clean energy niche market. Garrett Alexander from General Air, for example,  received a $600k sub-contract from City of Boston’s RENEW Boston Trust energy services contract for work on municipal buildings.   The Boston Contractor Academy has been funded by the Energy Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Boston Foundation.  Another Academy is slated for October, 2021.


Workforce Development

Program Updates

  • First Source Hiring Policy – The ECC Bay Area team is helping the city of East Palo Alto to update its First Source Hiring policy. ECC is gathering community and other stakeholder inputs through interviews and workshops to craft policy recommendations that address their priorities for high road career pathways for local residents. Paired with workforce training programs, First Source Hiring policies prioritize residents for jobs created by new development. These policies are commonly applied to retail or construction jobs created by new development, but East Palo Alto plans to apply the policy to post-construction jobs, as well as positioning their residents for successful careers in the life sciences, tech and other STEAM fields.
  • Boston and Mass Save – ECC Boston, is part of a team that is preparing to launch a pilot of the Clean Energy Pathways internship program. This effort is sponsored by the Mass Save utilities and is aiming to place young people of color into HVAC and Weatherization with contractors in four Massachusetts cities.  The launch is slated for August.
  • D.C. Economic Inclusion Landscape Assessment – The District of Columbia has one of the most aggressive climate policies in the country, and they have been intentional about Justice 40 before Justice 40 was a thing. They have explicitly included in their climate plan – economic inclusion – bringing DC residents, especially BIPOC communities from WARD 7 and 8 into the climate economy. ECC is helping. We recently completed an economic inclusion landscape assessment to help connect their new Building Energy Performance Standards to local jobs and business opportunities.  Inclusive Economics estimated a total of 2,000 new energy and construction related jobs will be needed in the first phase of the project which targets carbon reduction on private buildings under 50,000 sf. Our assessment of the workforce and small business eco-system revealed what is ostensibly a nation-wide problem. In short, cities are facing a huge challenge. The critical construction labor shortage across the country will compromise the speed and cost of meeting the nation’s climate goals and requires an aggressive investment in the workforce and small business eco-systems to better align with the clean energy labor market and to reach BIPOC communities – the workforce of the future.
  • California Youth Leadership Corps – The Hilton Foundation awarded a two-year $1 million grant to launch the California Youth Leadership Corps (CYLC), a joint project of ECC and the Community Learning Partnership.  CYLC is a new statewide partnership between the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, selected California community colleges, local nonprofit organizations, the California Endowment and other community partners. This unique partnership was created to prepare a new generation of young people to become community organizers and change agents in their local communities. In Fall 2021, the CYLC will launch experiential learning career pathway programs in the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, Riverside, and Fresno.  Students will receive paid internships, community college credits and certificates, while working on environmental, climate and social justice initiatives. ECC will be playing a critical role in launching and growing these programs building out the curricula for the Clean Energy and Climate Change Learn and Earn Program, using our Energy Democracy Scorecard and Flipbook.


Public – Private Sector Procurement Policies

Program Updates

  • East Bay San Francisco – Through our Anchors in Resilient program, ECC collaborated with Health Care Without Harm to open the Union City Culinary Center this year. The center will deliver 50,000 ready-to-eat meals each day to institutions throughout northern California. It is already increasing contracting opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs of color. In addition to the sustainable meals that will be provided, the center also features advanced, environmentally sustainable building technologies, including 270 kilowatts of onsite solar power, and energy-saving refrigeration and cooking equipment.
  • Boston –  Setting policies and equity goals is the first step in a Justice 40 agenda. None of that will come to fruition, however, without the right implementation tools. One instrument of change is the RFP – request for proposals. The RFP is where things get serious. The equity goals are tied to public/private investments and are distributed throughout the supply chain. This along with specific business and workforce utilization plans and proactive monitoring are needed to move from goals to results. ECC provided training and technical assistance to the City of Boston Sustainability Office to design its RFP large ESCO exterior lighting project to maximize community benefits, and helped the City of Chicago design its selection criteria and reviewed solar bids for its 200 MW solar investments to maximize community benefits.
  • Microsoft – ECC is partnering with the NAACP and a coalition of a dozen environmental, climate and workforce organizations to align Microsoft’s climate commitments to be zero net energy and zero waste with justice-centered principles and practices, including investments in community-defined climate resilience.


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