Science-Based Equitable Policy Principles

Purpose: Our Climate believes in empowering youth to analyze and advocate for science-based and equitable climate policies that secure a livable planet. The following is our best attempt to define what we mean by science-based and equitable and apply those definitions to common categories of climate policies we analyze.

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Defining “science-based” and “equitable”

To be science-based, a policy needs to reduce the extraction, transport, emissions and pollution from fossil fuels and phase in renewable energy in a way that achieves a stable, sustainable, healthy climate for future generations. Because our understanding of the problems and solutions are evolving, we should use the most current recommendations from scientists to guide our policy evaluation, regardless of how bold it is.
To be equitable in content, a policy must reverse the way environmental hazards are disproportionately passed on to environmental justice communities*. It must prioritize their physical, emotional, and financial health by including specific protections, resources and funding. It must help to build affordable, inclusive and sustainable places and ways to live and flourish. It must increase the transparency, accessibility and accountability of our government.
Lastly, to be equitable in process, a policy must be actively written, shaped, supported and executed by transparent, diverse coalitions from impacted communities. Those coalitions must work actively to center underrepresented people including–Black people, Indigenous People, People of Color, low-income people, LGBTQIA+ people, womxn, people experiencing homelessness, labor groups and farmworkers, people with disabilities, immigrants and undocumented people, and youth.

* Environmental Justice Communities are groups of people disproportionately affected by environmental hazards, including climate change and the extraction, transport, and combustion of fossil fuels. They often include populations marginalized by other systems of oppression, such as Black people, Indigenous People, People of Color, low-income people, LGBTQIA+ people, womxn, people experiencing homelessness, labor groups and farmworkers, people with disabilities, immigrants and undocumented people, and youth.

Applying our definitions to policy

While there is no single way for a policy to meet these definitions, Our Climate often analyzes and advocates for three common categories of policy:

  1. Precisely vetted and enforced renewable energy targets
  2. Strong, specific corporate polluter fees to equitably fund a just transition
  3. Environmental Justice legislation that provide specific protections and resources for environmental justice communities

When we evaluate these legislation types, here’s what we look for:

1. Precisely vetted and enforced renewable energy targets:

  • Set aggressive greenhouse gas reductions that get us zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 2045 and net negative emissions thereafter
  • Set interim emissions targets every 5 years with specific and severe penalties for government and industry players who do not comply
  • Truly renewable energy must make up the vast majority of our energy sources in all sectors; the sources must be highly vetted and regulated to avoid greenwash and loopholes

2. Strong, specific corporate polluter fees to equitably fund a just transition:

  • Prices must
    • Be high and increase each year until we reach emissions targets
    • Cover all sectors of the economy
    • Applied to all greenhouse gasses, including those generated by extraction and transport of fuels
  • Some money collected from the corporate polluters should be rebated to individual families in the most vulnerable communities (environmental justice, low-income, and rural communities) to protect them from price hikes without changing any social services or financial support for which they currently qualify.
  • The rest should be spent on some combination of the following:
    • green infrastructure and projects that reduce greenhouse gas pollution; a percentage must be specifically earmarked for use by vulnerable communities.
    • protect workers in the new green economy, including those transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry.
    • supporting members of vulnerable communities to be part of all decision-making processes, including how funding should be spent

3. Environmental Justice legislation that provide specific protections, supports and resources for environmental justice communities

Environmental justice (EJ) legislation takes as many forms as the racist and classist systems it dismantles. These policy solutions include but are not limited to:

  • defining and tracking impacts on environmental justice communities
  • local renovation, revitalization projects for polluted or abandoned sites
  • legal or other protections and resources for native people
  • bans or depermitting for dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure or other sources of waste and pollution
  • reforms that dismantle and defund oppressive systems that create or enforce climate and social justice crises
  • protections for environmental justice communities and workers that ensure a “just transition” to a green economy

Our Climate is dedicated to listening deeply to our environmental justice partners and holding up their solutions. We know that climate justice, racial justice, and economic justice are all fundamentally intertwined, which is why we fight for comprehensive intersectional policies.

We also acknowledge that as a climate organization, we are not experts in every field, Instead we are committed to endorsing and centering the platforms and demands of the movements we stand in solidarity with. The first platform we’d like to formally endorse as an organization is the Movement for Black Lives and their demands to defund the police and invest in Black communities. Read more about their demands here. Stay tuned here for future platforms that we will endorse.

Download the Policy Principles Infographic

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