CJA Calls for Investment Directly into Climate Solutions led by Environmental/Climate Justice Groups
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On September 8th, the Bezos Earth Fund announced its second round of funding of more than $200 million to a few environmental justice (EJ), academic, corporate controlled, and big green- and Hollywood-informed entities. Of the nearly $1 billion given out by the Earth Fund thus far, ~20% has been transferred to environmental/climate justice organizations, and much of that via funder intermediaries. Ironically, this is substantially less than what is called for in the Justice40 initiative they are supporting, which urges the federal government to ensure 40% of “overall benefits” are directed to “disadvantaged communities”.
Now is the time for undeniably powerful grassroots leadership. This is even truer now than when the Earth Fund announced its initial grantees last year. We call upon the Bezos Earth Fund to make clear their commitment to frontline communities by mirroring Justice40’s 40% investment (which is a floor, not a ceiling) and committing at least 40% of remaining funds directly to grassroots-led climate solutions. There are four pathways ready to absorb these funds: frontline organizations directly; via grassroots alliances and networks; via community-controlled capital mechanisms; and via grassroots-centric funder intermediaries.
In a recent article by Verge, CJA board member Maria Lopez-Nuňez, at Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey said, “The Bezos fund is improving, but they still have some ways to go. We don’t want byproducts. We want the real deal.” We want direct investment in our communities, “not the undefined ‘overall benefits’ of funding streams that communities themselves don’t control.” “The Earth Fund is a complicated fund, given how Bezos has made his wealth on the exploitation of workers and the environment,” Lopez-Nuñez says. “[The money] comes from our communities; it’s been extracted from our communities, at the cost of our health.”
Yet, in this round, EJ groups whose communities have been most impacted, did not get funding parity with, let alone 40% of, what big green environmental organizations received in the first cycle [World Resources Institute ($100 million), The Nature Conservancy ($100 million), Natural Resources Defense Council ($100 million), Environmental Defense Fund ($100 million), World Wildlife Fund ($100 million)].
So, while it is a small step in the right direction, neither the dollar amount nor the strategy of depending on federal government programs that down the road could possibly benefit some environmental justice communities goes far enough. The Bezos Earth Fund grantmaking practices, thus far, do not do enough to close the $2.7 Billion Funding Gap Between White-Led and BIPOC-Led Environmental and Conservation Organizations. Nor do they help permanently retire market based schemes, carbon capture and storage, and other techno fixes that continue to harm frontline communities and fail to address the root causes of the rapidly escalating climate emergency. We need significant capital moving to make deep investment in the ingenuity and brilliance of frontline communities who are leading climate solutions that actually cool the planet and are available to us now, ready to absorb resources, and scalable through localized replication.
“We have to run and put our finger in so many different holes,” said Dwaign Tyndal, Executive Director of the Boston-based nonprofit Alternatives for Community and Environment and Board Member of Climate Justice Alliance, to Verge. “We carry so much of this work, relative to the resources that are allocated … Many of our groups are Black and brown, Indigenous groups and somehow that money has not trickled down.”
Philanthropy and government, alike, must DIRECTLY support local solutions and narratives that come from those who have endured environmental racism and have lived on the frontlines of the climate crisis for decades. We continue to invite the Earth Fund to prioritize resourcing and scaling up those frontline-led solutions that ensure jobs, justice, climate, and care are centered, while working to reduce emissions at source through a Just Transition. We call for the commitment of at least 40% of the remaining $9 billion in the fund to the grassroots organizing sector. Large scale support for corporate controlled false promises and unproven techno fixes works at counter purpose and does not move us toward equity grounded in systemic change.
As summed up by CJA Board Co-Chair and Executive Director of UPROSE in Brooklyn, New York, Elizabeth Yeampierre, “If you are not investing in climate justice and ensuring equity in frontline communities — you are not addressing the climate crisis. This is a time for transformative funding that will address an historic legacy of harm.”