Published: Dec. 5, 2016
Just Transition report

Executive Summary: Boulder is a visionary, world-leading city on many issues, including climate science, resilience, and sustainability. The Climate Commitment signals an opportunity to imagine climate change not only as one of our greatest challenges, but also to foster dialogue about the type of city we want to become and how social equity is pivotal to our future. As a concept that emerged from labor, indigenous, environmental justice, and other grassroots movements, we urge that the City of Boulder adopt a Just Transition framework for its climate and energy planning. Boulder could set an example for bold and innovative governance.

A Just Transition approach recognizes that ecological solutions require economic and equity solutions as well. Realizing just solutions requires inclusive policy processes and soliciting input from all Boulder’s diverse communities on their needs and ideas. It will also require assessing and defining those populations most likely to be impacted by environmental problems and related climate and energy policies. This involves prioritizing a range of public participation opportunities and listening to and learning from people under-represented in decision-making processes and who experience forms of discrimination and inequality. In this way, a Just Transition framework strives to improve shared living standards for all people.

Boulder faces social equity challenges in achieving the goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Non-homeowners lack the opportunity to invest in on-home solar and may bear the brunt of shifts in utility rates. Boulder rental properties exhibit far lower energy efficiency ratings than other properties, which may result in higher energy cost burden for low-income people. In some industries at the national level, green jobs suffer from a lack of racial, gender, and economic diversity. For example, in the solar industry, one of the fastest growing job sectors in the United States, African Americans and women make up only 6 percent and 22 percent of the solar workforce respectively, while representing 12 percent and 50 percent of the overall workforce. Effectively transitioning to a renewable energy economy will necessitate an inclusive process that takes diverse public needs and interests into account.

We recommend that Boulder’s Climate Commitment initiate dialogues concerning challenging questions that we face together, such as:

  • How can we support job training that ensures that green jobs are fair and accessible to people in all social demographics and in all neighborhoods?
  • How can public investment in solar energy and energy efficiency benefit those most impacted by high utility rates?
  • How can we provide a fair transition for workers currently in fossil fuel-related industries and for under-employed populations?
  • How can we ensure that decision-making processes for climate and energy solutions are transparent, inclusive, and diverse?
  • How do we inspire all our neighborhoods and workplaces to feel invested in this transition?

We recommend that Boulder adopt four goals for the Energy priority area of the Climate Commitment. These include:

  1. Build inclusive community leadership and policy engagement
  2. Promote equity in energy and resource costs and ownership of green technologies
  3. Generate socially just economic and employment opportunities and mitigate related losses
  4. Provide regional leadership to address equity in climate and energy

The Just Transition objectives are intended to be measurable, adaptable to community input, and implemented sequentially based on community needs. We recommend the development of additional goals, objectives, and metrics in subsequent years for the Resources and Ecosystems priority areas of the Climate Commitment with meaningful community engagement. Click here to access the report.