In 2021 alone, 20 separate climate-related disasters cost the United States more than $145 billion. Scientists warn we must halve harmful emissions by the end of this decade to avoid mass human suffering, meaning the short window we have left to pass policies that rapidly transition away from fossil fuels across our economy is rapidly closing.

But that narrow opportunity to act also means we can’t afford for any of the climate policies we adopt not to be effective.

Winning the kind of ambitious climate policy we desperately need requires broad, inclusive coalitions. Ensuring these policies actually achieve their aims after they are passed means integrating community needs into policy design from the outset. Passing policies that are both transformative and durable requires an inclusive policy design and organizing process that brings everyone to the table.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) that passed Illinois’ statehouse last fall is a powerful example of just such an inclusive process. CEJA puts the state on a path to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045 and will dramatically reduce emissions across the power, transportation, and buildings sectors; and compared to other state climate legislation, the law uniquely prioritizes clean energy investments and job creation in historically disinvested low-income and environmental justice communities.

Advocates estimate CEJA could stimulate $30 billion in new private renewables investments, spurring equitable economic growth by requiring any new project to meet diversity goals, reducing energy burdens, and supporting clean transportation, while guaranteeing family-supporting wages for workers. CEJA’s provisions also offer reinvestment opportunities in communities like East Saint Louis, Illinois. Once a thriving industrial center, this predominantly Black community now has one of the country’s highest poverty rates and is home to multiple Superfund sites. Many environmental justice communities across the state have been subject to similar, disproportionate toxic air pollution and water contamination, often due to the racist history of citing polluting facilities in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

Now, because of CEJA, East Saint Louis and 12 other disadvantaged communities will be home to new clean energy workforce training hubs that prepare local workers for jobs in the clean energy economy and help jump-start new clean energy businesses owned by people of color.

Read the full article about inclusive legislation for climate justice by Sarah Spengeman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.