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Climate Advocacy Toolkit - Greenbelt Alliance
Climate Advocacy Toolkit

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Centering People and Equity

Below is an excerpt from Greenbelt Alliance’s Resilience Playbook. For more information and to see the full policy matrix navigate to the of the Playbook.

Climate change affects us all but is not experienced fairly. Certain groups of people have been disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards due to unjust social and economic conditions perpetuated and upheld by our institutions. People of color, low-income residents, Indigenous people, immigrants, and people in rural areas have historically been the target of generations of racist and classist policies such as redlining (the discriminatory practice of denying services (typically financial) to residents of certain areas based on their race or ethnicity), and other negligent zoning practices that have led to higher concentrations of pollution and environmental toxins. These communities also have long been excluded from the decision-making processes regarding their own wellbeing and often have limited access to public resources despite being overburdened by environmental hazards.
That is why climate change advocacy groups often refer to these communities as frontline communities or those who will be hit first and worst by the climate crisis. Their climate vulnerability is determined by both physical factors, such as exposure to wildfires, floods, etc., and socioeconomic factors such as inadequate living conditions, community health status, and level of access to public services.

How do you embed equity and environmental justice into your General Plan?

There are three integral components that should be incorporated into all climate mitigation and adaptation efforts:

Community Engagement: Center the voices of frontline communities by putting residents at the heart of policy processes, recognizing that everyone has a unique lived experience and knowledge level when it comes to climate change.
Equitable Nature-Based Solutions: Work in sync with nature to benefit our communities and ecosystems, prioritizing solutions that remediate historic harms, improve public health, create long-term climate resilience, and avoid unintended consequences such as displacement.
Just Transition: Move to a regenerative economy that not only mitigates climate change but provides people with good jobs, economic mobility, and does not exhaust our planet’s finite resources.

Key Recommendations

You can include these sample actions in your letter to an elected official or in your public comment.

Creating in-depth collaboration between municipalities and communities before embarking on nature-based solutions projects
Allocating significant funding for nature-based solutions projects that have multiple benefits to communities and assuring their longevity by guaranteeing continued funding
Providing research and technical support to residents that want to implement a nature-based solution in their community and helping them with grant writing and project design
Designing projects that are led by Indigenous communities in order to elevate their Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Working with community partners to create measurable equity goals that determine the success of a project
Create equitable processes for executing climate resilience policies, where justice is central to the policy design and implementation. Meaningful engagement means co-creating solutions with frontline communities and working to remediate for historic harms instigated by the institution.
Ensure everyone has access to climate-resilient housing in a way that takes into consideration the systemic disenfranchisement of frontline communities and addresses the root causes of the housing crisis. Prioritize policies that mitigate the effects of redlining, avoid causing displacement, and create safe and sanitary homes for the most vulnerable.
Move away from an extractive, fossil fuel-based economy, to one that is regenerative. Prioritize creating healthy communities, remediating environmental injustices, and providing green jobs, especially for those whose welfare is threatened by the transition away from fossil fuels.
Design healthy resilient neighborhoods that have the tools to protect communities from a multitude of climate hazards, especially frontline communities that are the most vulnerable to risk. Make sure these places reflect the physical and mental needs of residents, creating opportunities for growth and community solidarity.

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