Climate Action, Equity Go Hand in Hand

NEXT MONTH, Boston will host ClimaTech, a new, global leadership conference that will bring together organizations from various states and countries to highlight and discuss innovation and economic opportunities in climate technology.

The urgency of the climate crisis is the driving force behind this gathering, happening June 3-5, a testament to the growing recognition that climate action is a global imperative. Concurrently, Gov. Maura Healey has recently introduced an ambitious plan to invest $1.3 billion in public funds and tax incentives into climate technology over the next 10 years, highlighting Massachusetts’ commitment to promoting a robust ecosystem of climate innovation.

As outlined in their economic development bill, or the Mass Leads Act, the Healey-Driscoll administration’s vision is about more than just investment. The legislation is about catalyzing growth, promoting entrepreneurship, and positioning Massachusetts as a leader in climate tech innovation. According to analyses from the Donahue Institute, this initiative has the potential to generate $16.4 billion in economic activity and create 7,000 good-paying jobs across the Commonwealth.

This transformative bill and upcoming conference present a unique opportunity for Massachusetts to confront a stark reality, even as we celebrate these milestones and their promise.

Persistent inequities have marginalized communities of color, particularly in the context of environmental justice and economic opportunities. People of color are disproportionately harmed by the climate crisis, residing in environmental justice zones burdened by pollution and climate-related risks. Compounding these inequities, Black and brown residents often find themselves at the back of the queue when accessing the benefits of climate-related jobs and opportunities.

Equity must be embedded in the fabric of climate initiatives and economic development plans. We must ensure that the benefits of climate innovation and economic growth are justly distributed, reaching those who have historically been excluded. Climate resilience and adaptation investments must prioritize frontline communities that bear the brunt of climate impacts. This includes addressing infrastructure needs, access to clean energy, affordable housing, and equitable resource distribution to build resilience and enhance the quality of life in vulnerable areas.

Equity means intentional, targeted efforts to address concerns regarding access to capital while working with businesses to embed best practices and resources to increase the participation of minority-owned enterprises in the corporate supply chain.

Communities of color need to have equitable access to education, training, and employment opportunities that ensure students have the knowledge, skills, competence, and real-world work experiences they need to participate in the burgeoning climate tech sector. Initiatives like workforce development programs, apprenticeships, and partnerships between industry, academia, and community organizations can play a pivotal role in bridging this gap. Data tracking and transparency are also important to adequately analyze the impact of equity-related initiatives funded by our tax dollars and address any perceived gaps.

Finally, inclusivity should not be an afterthought but a guiding principle in decision-making. This process must include the voices of marginalized communities in shaping climate policies, investments, and solutions. This active involvement is essential to creating an inclusive and just transition to a green economy, empowering communities to shape their own future.

BECMA and NECEC are doubling down on our efforts and remain committed to supporting the Commonwealth in meeting these climate justice and equity goals. As we embark on this journey of climate innovation and economic transformation, let us not repeat the mistakes of the past, where systemic barriers and inequalities perpetuated injustice.

We can seize this opportunity to build a future where climate action is synonymous with equity, all communities have a seat at the table, and everyone shares prosperity. ClimaTech 2024 and the Mass Leads Act mark pivotal moments in our fight against climate change. Now, let us ensure that these efforts pave the way for an inclusive, sustainable, and just future where nobody is left behind.

Barry Reaves is vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice at the New England Clean Energy Center and Nicole Obi is president and CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts .

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