Academy Article
May 6, 2024

Academy Co-Hosts Climate Justice Panel


On April 26, the Academy co-hosted a webinar with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Part of the monthly Climate Conversations series, the webinar celebrated the release of two recent reports: the American Academy’s Forging Climate Solutions: How to Accelerate Action Across America and the National Academies’ Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States: Technology, Policy, and Societal DimensionsMichael Méndez and Patricia Romero-Lankaum, of the National Academies’ Committee on Accelerating Decarbonization in the United States, joined Hilary Tompkins, of the American Academy’s Commission on Accelerating Climate Action, to discuss common themes of the reports, including community participation and environmental justice.

The widespread recognition of environmental justice, and the language used to describe its conditions, are an evolving piece of the climate movement. Its salience is particularly important to ensure that communities have voice and agency during energy transition and climate adaptation processes. Speaking of her time on the bipartisan Commission on Accelerating Climate Action, Tompkins noted “different folks from different political spectrumsthey might talk about it differently and use different words  but there was a recognition that that injustice exists in this country.”

While federal agencies have enshrined many environmental justice principles in regulation, the panel discussed ways the private sector can play a role. Tompkins noted that there are so many things “that the private sector can think about and utilize . . . within their own team, their own company. It is really important to have people who are familiar with the communities that they are working within and so that those individuals can help educate others within the company.” 

“My tribe, the Navajo, we had uranium mining, we had coal mining. And when talking and engaging with communities it's so important to know their history . . .  That history can impede openness to trusting and building that partnership," Tompkins said. The American Academy’s Forging Climate Solutions suggests that expertise in community engagement is essential for companies that wish to build long-term relationships with the communities in which they work.

 Strategy 1: Prioritize Equity, Fairness, and Justice
Climate action must lessen – not worsen- existing inequities in our society. Actions to address justice will strengthen our nation’s resilience and help ensure that the benefits of action on climate change are spread fairly.

Read the full strategy here.

For more information on the perspectives of all three speakers on the challenges of working with the government, permitting reform, and the importance of storytelling, watch the full webinar recording here.