The vision of the CU Boulder Just Transition Collaborative (JTC) is to advance social and environmental justice in energy, climate and employment policies and practices throughout the United States and internationally. Below are some of the highlights of our work since the founding of the JTC in 2016.
Prof. Pezzullo's spring 2022 Foundations in Enviornmental Justice class piloted a digital storytelling partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) called the Colorado EnviroScreen StoryMaps, which aims to foster increaseed public engagement and context for quantitative environmental justice data. She continues to work with the CDPHE to improve public participation in environmental justice decision-making.
The Communicating Care Podcast was launched, where we talk about the ways environmental and climate justice advocacy are motivated by, express, and foster care. On this podcast, Prof. Pezzullo encourages us to listen more deeply to people who have made headlines for making a difference to learn from their insights for successful creative climate communication and behavior change. The first season included interviews with frontline activists from Kenya, Bangladesh, and the US, including disability justice and just transition organizers.
Prof. Ciplet's students have aired over fifty KGNU radio stories to date. The Brink topics have ranged from homelessness to toxic contamination to fracking to energy access.
Both Prof. Ciplet and Prof. Pezzullo have been collaborating with colleagues through the Engineering School's RISE initiative (Resilient Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity). Pezzullo's collaboration has led to a first publication “Disaster resilience and environmental sustainability of incarceration infrastructure: A review of literature” in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Ciplet's collaboration has led to a Colorado-Texas collective that is driven by people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated to address climate and incarceration risks.
The Climate and Incarceration Research Collaborative (CIRCol, pronounced “Circle”) supports community-based participatory research to understand and address environmental harms, vulnerability, and injustice experienced by people who are incarcerated. Reducing vulnerability requires an integrated approach that drastically diminishes the rates of incarceration and the harmful conditions that exist in prisons. The initiative is led by Professors Shideh Dashti, Shawhin Roudbari, Abby Liel, Phaedra C. Pezzullo, Carlee Purdum, and David Ciplet with the assistance of post-doctoral fellow Sarah Glade. Initial funding comes from RISE-IRT.
The JTC worked with it's first cohort of Just Transition Research Fellows. Due to a generous grant from Boulder County, in summer 2021, we identified and profiled frontline advocacy work beyond the well-known focus on coal mining to provide a more complex and intersectional picture of Colorado’s just transition grassroots networks and needs.
Broadening the scope of our work, the JTC engaged at the County level as part of a initiative called the Climate Resilience Collaborative. This involved the City of Boulder, the Philanthropiece Foundation and the JTC. The initiative engaged in a series of four workshops to build shared capacity through vision and strategy for Boulder County’s equitable, community‐driven, climate resilience planning process.
The JTC supported the City and County to implement these objectives through energy and equity research and the development of the Climate Justice Leaders program and the Climate Justice Assembly. The Climate Justice Leaders program was created in order to address the lack of a diverse representation in Boulder city and county sustainability efforts. Our pilot cohort consisted of 10 community leaders that represented communities of color, immigrants, youth, elders and low-income communities in the city and county of Boulder. Participants have since engaged in numerous initiatives related to a just transitions including Foundation for Leaders Organizing for Water and Sustainability (FLOWS), People Engaged in Raising Leaders, the Health Equity Advisory Committee and the Boulder Housing Partners Board of Commissioners.
The Climate Justice Assembly included four workshops that brought together 35 diverse community leaders, including the Climate Justice Leaders, policy-makers (including the Mayor, City Council members and County Commissioners), NGO and university representatives to envision new forms of collaboration, policy and project action and assessment. The work of the CJA explored three parts 1) inclusive policy practices and goals around sustainability in Boulder city and county that are important and relevant to underrepresented communities 2) identification of equity needs and barriers in policies and programs around the city and county of Boulder broadly and specific to green workforce development and transportation and 3) to engage in conversations about how power, identity and bias influence efforts that the city and county work on in regards to equity and sustainability. Learnings and recommendations from the Climate Justice Assemble were assembled into a report which were presented by the Climate Justice Leaders to Boulder City Council in spring 2018.
Our intitial focus was in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is a world leader in renewable energy and emissions reductions programs. However, the City faces social justice challenges in achieving the goal of 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. As an example, non-homeowners experience a lack of opportunity to invest in on-home solar, and may bear the brunt of shifts in utility rates. This transition also provides major opportunities to invest political processes that are inclusive and representative, in a green economy that provides living-wage jobs, and in public policies that benefit those with the most at stake, particularly communities of color and low-income people.
In 2016, the JTC successfully incorporated input from diverse constituents to advise the City of Boulder to incorporate social justice objectives in its landmark Climate Commitment. These include strengthening community leadership and policy inclusion of under-represented constituents, generating socially just economic and employment opportunities, and promoting equity in energy costs and ownership of green technologies.
After the adoption of these objectives by the City, we worked closely with community partners, impacted residents and City and County officials to support the implementation of these objectives through culturally-relevant, inclusive, community-engaged and innovative forms of policy guidance. This is in line with Boulder’s Climate Commitment to “integrating social equity considerations in all major energy transition initiatives to improve the economic, social and political opportunities for all segments of the Boulder community.”
JTC Co-Director, David Ciplet, also founded "The Brink" student radio series with KGNU radio station to document stories of struggle and transformation related to environmental justice.