As advocates of Just Transition, a group of Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) members in the northeast concerned with the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and its process decided to convene fellow CJA member organizations throughout the region. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) describes itself as a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. The participating states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. The Georgetown Climate Center has been leading the TCI effort to coordinate these states on a regional approach to cleaner transportation since 2010. TCI has yet to land on a policy mechanism and investment model; however, the debate is quickly gaining traction and conversations are unfolding without input from environmental justice and frontline groups.
CJA member groups met on January 30th to discuss the policy agenda and decided to publish a set of equity principles that outline how TCI conveners, along with government supporters, should engage with environmental justice, low-income, and frontline communities of color in the northeast.
Our concerns are:
- TCI seems to be guided by stakeholders with interests in a cap-and-invest model, which in truth is a cap-and-trade-and-invest scheme similar to RGGI.
- Governors throughout the region –Democratic and Republican—have either demonstrated support or made positive statements about TCI.
- The Georgetown Climate Center released a report summarizing the outcomes of the regional listening sessions that does not accurately reflect all of the input provided by stakeholders who attended. Many concerns and input brought forth by grassroots and community stakeholders were not included as part of the report.
Our Climate Justice Equity Principles for the Transportation and Climate Initiative follows.
Climate Justice Equity Principles for the Transportation & Climate Initiative
Preamble: The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is a growing member alliance of 68 urban & rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks in the climate justice movement. CJA formed in 2013 to create a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities and organizations. Our translocal organizing strategy and mobilizing capacity builds Just Transitions away from extractive systems of production, consumption and political oppression, and towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies. We believe the transition process must place race, gender and class at the center of solutions equations to make them true Just Transitions. We are locally, tribally, and regionally-based organizations of Indigenous Peoples, African American, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, and poor white communities who share legacies of racial and economic oppression and social justice organizing.
Principles: We, the undersigned member organizations of the Northeast contingent of the Climate Justice Alliance, propose the following principles for a just and equitable path that any regional transportation climate initiative (TCI) must reflect:
- NE states with longstanding local transportation equity campaigns (such as New York City’s push for congestion pricing) – or other broader climate justice campaigns embedded with significant transportation policies (such as NY’s Climate & Community Protection Act) – must not be overridden, undermined, superseded, or otherwise evaded by a regional, multi-state pact. TCI should be used to support and expand – not supplant – visionary local transportation and equitable funding responsibilities, goals and initiatives intended to reduce emissions in just ways.
- Any proposals for polluter penalty fees or climate-based taxes must be coupled with a 100% emissions reduction target – along with generated revenues committed to adequately funding “just transition” initiatives from low-income, environmental justice and frontline communities of color that seek to finance relief from the disproportionate burdens of transportation emissions while providing support to workers displaced by the shift to a renewable energy economy. Investment of new revenues must be prioritized to:
- Low-income, frontline, environmental justice communities and communities of color that have been historically overburdened by the impact of the fossil fuel economy;
- Electrification of public transportation infrastructure including school buses;
- Public sector and public jobs keeping public dollars public.
- Both TCI conveners and their governmental partners must meet with NE representatives of the Climate Justice Alliance before proceeding any further to ensure fair, authentic and transparent consultation with low-income, environmental justice and frontline communities of color that are disproportionately vulnerable and burdened by transportation emissions, severe weather events and climate change impacts writ large. Despite TCI conversations and funding dating back to 2010, it was only in 2018 that “listening sessions” were first initiated – mostly in state capitals or other locations that are inconvenient to frontline communities, with little to no cultural or linguistic outreach or engagement competence, and during the work day. Furthermore, specific recommendations from the few environmental justice and frontline communities able to mobilize were largely ignored and not included in the official “TCI Listening Session Summary Report” issued on November 14, 2018.
- In addition to the equity principles outlined above, any policy measures outlined by TCI must:
- Ensure no disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations/protected classes;
- Promote racial, gender, cultural and intergenerational equity and justice;
- Advance opportunity by putting people at the center. There should be a public and transparent process that goes beyond engaging with CJA;
- Implement meaningful accountability measures to the public.
Considering the lack of process and accountability to low-income, environmental justice and frontline communities in the Northeast, the undersigned do not support the TCI as it stands. As CJA members supporting a “Just Transition”, we stand for solutions to the climate crisis that address systemic racism and the needs and demands of the grassroots, environmental justice, indigenous, low-income and frontline communities across the nation.
Angela Adrar; Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance
Cynthia Mellon; Climate Justice Policy Coordinator, Climate Justice Alliance
Elizabeth Yeampierre; Executive Director, UPROSE
Eddie Bautista; Executive Director, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA)
Lee Matsueda; Political Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)
María López-Nuñez; Director of Environmental Justice, Ironbound Community Corporation
Basav Sen; Climate Justice Project Director, Institute for Policy Studies
Sharon Lewis; Executive Director, Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice (CCEEJ)
Sarah Levy; Transit & Environmental Justice Organizer, GreenRoots