Today’s climate justice activists are applying that same lens when they highlight the dangers these US communities face from climate change’s effects—increased coastal and riverine flooding, longer heat waves and droughts, and more frequent and intense severe weather—all while lacking the financial and political resources and social networks to weather the storm and bounce back.

But today’s marchers are also calling for something new. They demand that proactive access to the benefits of climate mitigation actions be as equitable as our climate adaptation reactions. Through policies, regulations, and programs that expand energy-efficient retrofits of buildings, renewable energy sources and storage, and transportation not reliant on fossil fuels, climate mitigation can also break a historical pattern in which environmental amenities are reserved for only a few.

Climate equity, then, means more than just distributing the risks fairly; it also means equitably distributing the benefits.

Defining and measuring climate equity are no small tasks. In a newly released white paper coauthored with the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and supported by the Energy Trust of Oregon, Urban Institute researchers begin to pin down theories of equity measurement for the energy efficiency field. Based on the established scholarship of a rising group of energy justice researchers, we found six dimensions for energy equity action:

  1. Acknowledge the historical legacies of energy systems.
  2.  Identify and understand the specific populations in an energy service territory.
  3. Include all energy consumers at each level of design, staffing, and execution.
  4. Ensure eligibility and applications for an energy service are not discriminatory.
  5. Monitor differences in energy use and efficiency program take-up across groups.
  6. Confirm that gaps in life outcomes, such as health and financial conditions, are shrinking.

Read the full article about demanding equity in energy efficiency by Carlos Martín at Urban Institute.