Begin Main Content Area

Climate Action for Environmental Justice Communities

The DEP Energy Programs Office created the Climate Action for Environmental Justice Communities (CAEJC) Program to identify and support strategic actions to help communities across Pennsylvania adapt to climate change while striving to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with measures that reduce risk and capitalize on potential opportunities to strengthen local economies.

Pennsylvania’s climate is heating up, bringing warmer, wetter conditions overall and more frequent storms, floods, and heatwaves. While climate change impacts are happening around the state, historic and persisting socioeconomic inequities mean that some Pennsylvanians are more vulnerable to climate impacts because of where they live, the type of home they live in, their income level and degree of mobility, and other factors.

Pennsylvanians who live in Environmental Justice (EJ) areas in particular are disproportionately exposed to climate hazards, such as flooding and heatwaves. At the same time, they have limited access to tools to adapt to impacts and transition to cleaner energy to slow down climate change. As the climate continues to heat up, this vulnerability will deepen, unless action is taken.

Translating Input into Action

Through its 2023 engagement effort, EPO and its partners were able to connect with Pennsylvanians in EJ areas during open discussion sessions across the commonwealth, and online through EPO’s Climate Strategy Opinion Survey platform developed under this program. This program created an opportunity for EPO to listen to the needs and concerns of those facing and addressing climate-related EJ issues in their communities and integrate that input into future planning efforts so that our programs can better serve more Pennsylvanians. Participants included municipal employees, non-profit and advocacy organizations, and private individuals, who shared ideas and feedback on a wide range of potential strategies to fight climate change and adapt to its impacts. This feedback was synthesized into a report developed by Preservation Design Partnership (PDP) which details the input received and highlights priority actions identified in this engagement process.

Using the 2023 Community Engagement Report as a foundation, DEP worked with a contractor to develop helpful resources and guides for future planning. This was just the beginning of a more cohesive and intentional approach to integrating environmental justice as a cornerstone of all EPO programs, with additional, thoughtful stakeholder collaboration incorporated in specific programs and projects moving forward.

Actionizing Energy Equity in Federal Funding Programs

With the help of a contractor, Fourth Economy Consulting (4E), EPO was able to take the feedback from the community engagement process and develop resources to help DEP and communities themselves better access, design, and implement funding and technical assistance opportunities to meet the needs of EJ communities and others facing environmental justice and equity concerns:

  • Building on the groundwork laid in the CAEJC community engagement process, EPO and 4E used feedback received as well as additional analysis and known best practices to create tools for equitable implementation of climate actions in Pennsylvania with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in alignment with Justice40 guidance. These tools include:
  • The Program Development Toolkit, which is a series of guiding principles and prompting questions that will help program managers create more effective programs for communities facing environmental justice issues, conduct more impactful engagement to impacted parties and potential beneficiaries in future projects, better integrate EJ into existing programs, and provide helpful resources to leverage in program design and development.
  • ​Feedback from the CAEJC community input process willwas also used to inform DEP’s Priority Climate Action Plan developed as part of its Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) Program funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Building Environmental Justice into the 2024 Climate Action Plan

The feedback collected in in the Community Engagement Report and the lessons learned in this process is essential to inform a focus on environmental justice in the 2024 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan (CAP), which will provide a refined list of strategies to combat climate change in Pennsylvania, and ensure that strategies produce meaningful health, welfare, and community benefits for Environmental Justice communities and prioritize state and federal funding to ensure assistance is available where it is needed most.

  • To learn more about the CAP and other DEP climate initiatives, see the DEP Climate Change webpage.

  • Promoting Environmental Justice Across DEP

    The CAEJC program only represents EPO’s part of a much broader effort across DEP to prioritize environmental justice across its entire mission space. With the Office of Environmental Justice leading the way, DEP will expand its efforts to include more effective community engagement and outreach initiatives, and more equitable decision-making processes to empower the community and create a better Pennsylvania for all.

    Share Your Views in an Online Survey

    Interested in sharing your views on climate action with DEP? Visit the Climate Strategy Opinion Survey to take one or more surveys to share your views on the climate challenges your community is experiencing and how DEP can better meet the greenhouse gas reduction and climate adaptation needs of Pennsylvanians.

    Questions and information requests can be sent to: