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Environmental Justice, Just Transition, and a Low-Carbon Future for California

March 2020

Citation: ELR 10216

Author: J. Mijin Cha, Madeline Wander, and Manuel Pastor

We must substantially reduce carbon emissions within a short time line, and this rapid decarbonization will cause negative economic and social impacts on workers and communities dependent upon fossil fuel extraction and use. “Just transition” often refers to addressing the needs of those communities, but an equitable transition into a low-carbon future should also take into account environmental justice communities that have suffered from disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards and that could and should benefit from job creation. This Article presents the results of a community-informed research project analyzing the challenges and opportunities of a just transition for environmental justice communities in California. Through interviews, case studies, and original data analysis, a framework for just transition policy development is presented built on four pillars: strong governmental support, dedicated funding streams, diverse and strong coalitions, and economic diversification.

J. Mijin Cha is an assistant professor at Occidental College. Madeline Wander is a senior data analyst at the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California (USC). Manuel Pastor is a distinguished professor of sociology/American studies and ethnicity, Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC, and director of PERE.

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