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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 Pennsylvania’s Environmental Justice communities 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) communities 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.

Listening to Communities: 2023 Open Discussion Meetings and Report

Through its 2023 engagement effort, EPO and its partners were able to connect with Pennsylvanians in EJ communities 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. While these actions cover a wide range of energy topics, PDP’s report shows that many stuck to a handful of central themes:

  • Equity benchmarks should be the most important qualifying factor of any undertaking and first component of any public programming.
  • Transportation strategies should focus on increasing access and safety.
  • Renewable energy upgrades for private homes should have sufficient funding to include sustainable implementation and necessary additional repairs and weatherization improvements.
  • Expectations should be placed on industry and state agencies before addressing individual actions.
  • Existing community-based organizations should be empowered with increased capacity to provide assistance to people they already serve.
  • Financial assistance programs should be prioritized for under-resourced communities in need, reorganized to be user friendly, and supported with application and administration assistance.
  • Climate change information should be presented in simple terms that is relatable to the general public.

EPO will use this feedback and PDP’s report to inform updates to existing programs, and to develop new programs with federal funding.

Read Preservation Design Partnership’s full report here.

Translating Your Input into Action

Building Environmental Justice into the 2024 Climate Action Plan

The feedback collected in PDP’s report will be 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.

Actionizing Energy Equity in Federal Funding Programs

The CAEJC community input process is 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:

  • Building on the groundwork laid in the CAEJC community input process, EPO will use feedback received as well as additional analysis and known best practices to create a strategy guide 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.
  • At the same time, feedback from the CAEJC community input process will inform the development of DEP’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) Program. In early planning, this program will focus on actions aimed at reducing emissions from the industrial sector, which can be particularly difficult to decarbonize, and expand its scope to be economy-wide as the project progresses.
  • In the early phases of the CPRG Program, EPO will reach out to contacts made, and use lessons learned, in the CAEJC community input process to conduct and deliver inclusive and thorough stakeholder engagement focusing on climate pollution reduction.

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: