A historic amount of federal funding is being allocated to climate-resilient infrastructure with social equity in mind. The Justice40 Initiative, launched in 2021 via Executive Order, is an intentional, “whole-of-government effort to… deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.” It is a core part of the Administration’s strategy to achieve goals of racial, environmental, and economic justice.
The White House has shared a Path to Achieving Justice 40, which outlines “21 priority programs to immediately begin enhancing benefits for disadvantaged communities.” But enhancing federal programs is just the start of what is needed to achieve goals of racial, environmental, and economic justice. A new report from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, Making Justice40 a Reality for Frontline Communities: Lessons From State Approaches to Climate and Clean Energy Investments lays out principles for resourcing frontline communities, achieving community-powered transformational change, and ensuring accountability while institutionalizing justice. Guided by advice from movement leaders, this report makes recommendations for operationalizing these three guiding principles by ensuring that: 1) under-resourced communities can access funding opportunities through strategic technical assistance, capacity building and partnership development support, 2) front-line communities have power and agency, both in Justice40 policy-level and local investment decision-making, and 3) Justice40 will be a catalyst to help institutionalize environmental, climate, racial, and economic justice not only into certain funding approaches but also into government practices, policies, and systems more broadly. Making Justice 40 goals a reality will not be easy. A coordinated and collaborative approach will be needed, and philanthropy will have a crucial role to play in helping governmental and community organizations within Southern California successfully obtain and administer these funds. At this upcoming convening, we’ll discuss what it will take to make our nation’s ambitious Justice40 agenda a reality in Southern California. We will explore the opportunities, barriers, and strategies needed to reduce environmental health disparities. And, we’ll learn from a set of local stakeholders working on developing a just economy and society for all in Southern California, with clear-eyed suggestions to funders who want to support a just transition.
The Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) Environmental Funders Group meets quarterly to educate prospective and current environmental funders about environmental challenges and opportunities in Southern California as well as foster collaboration and share successes and challenges. This convening concept was developed in partnership between members of the SCG Environmental Funders Steering Committee, SCG staff, and Ron Milam (who as a consultant, has helped organize these quarterly convenings for the last couple of years). We welcome your feedback, as this is a work in progress.
Co-Executive Director, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation
Colleen Callahan is Co-Executive Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI). She has served in this role since 2010, helping to build LCI from the ground up. Collaborating with colleagues and civic partners, she helps ensure that our research shapes evidence-based environmental policy. She spends much of her time strategizing, partnering, amplifying LCI’s work, and leading or supporting research projects, communications, events, and more.
Colleen’s research addresses environmental equity, climate, transportation, and access to public space. This includes leading LCI’s California Climate Investments research, which has helped inform how billions of dollars are invested to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide local benefits, particularly in front line communities affected by pollution and poverty.
She has more than 15 years of experience in social entrepreneurship, environmental policy, and urban planning. Colleen is co-founder of the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative, a nonprofit that supports emerging environmental leaders. Previously, she directed and taught in the UCLA Leaders in Sustainability (LiS) Certificate Program, which benefits about 100 graduate students annually from 20 plus disciplines across campus. Before coming to UCLA, she established the Los Angeles office of the American Lung Association, later serving as their manager of air quality policy.
She is a Switzer Environmental Fellow, recipient of the Neville Parker Award from the U.S. Council of University Transportation Centers, and co-recipient of two national awards from the American Planning Association. She holds a M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and a B.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy from Occidental College, Phi Beta Kappa.
President, Communities First
Helen Chin is the President of Communities First which is housed at Race Forward and Amalgamated Foundation where she serves as a Senior Fellow. Under Helen’s leadership, Communities First is transforming how federal, state, and local governments invest public dollars in low-wealth and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities by implementing a relationships-first approach to community-driven solutions that centers frontline communities’ leadership, innovation, and priorities.
Prior to launching Communities First, Helen worked at the Surdna Foundation for 13 years, as the Program Director for Sustainable Environments at the Surdna Foundation. She led the program’s work to support Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and low-wealth communities achieve racial equity, and economic, environmental and climate justice.
She holds a Master of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. Presently she serves on the Advisory Committee for the Amplify Fund and Freedom Funders.
Deputy Director, Planning and Community Investment, California Strategic Growth Council
Saharnaz is the Deputy Director of Community Investment and Planning overseeing more than half a billion dollars of annual investment in infrastructure programs and community driven policy solutions. She works with local and regional governments to pilot initiatives for bridging climate and equity goals.
Saharnaz has over fifteen years of experience working in the public and private sectors on infrastructure development, climate resiliency, and community development. Before joining the SGC, she worked for the City of Thousand Oaks Sustainability Division, supporting the development of the City Municipal Sustainability Plan and Community Climate Action Plan. Saharnaz also worked with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability for more than three years, supporting local governments in combating the impact of climate change through local actions. As a consultant in the private sector, Saharnaz worked on multiple community revitalization and urban design projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities in Iran.
Saharnaz has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning with a Certificate of Sustainable Urban Infrastructure from University of Colorado Denver, a Master of Urban Design and Planning from Shahid Beheshti University, and a B.A. in Architecture from Iran University of Science and Technology.
Director, Policy Accelerator, The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund
Parin Shah (he/him) is the Director of the Policy Accelerator for the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund. The Accelerator is focused on working with grantees partners to advance policies that materially improve conditions for communities experiencing the causes and effects of climate change. The Accelerator does this by strengthening capacity and leadership among community organizations to drive equitable climate and energy policy. Previously, Parin was at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) leading up their EJ policy portfolio. At APEN, Parin has advanced equitable energy and climate justice policy – including 100% renewables, air quality legislation, GHG reduction targets and EJ representation on state boards. Prior to APEN he was President of the Commission on the Environment in San Francisco, led a global summit for mayors’ working on urban sustainability with the UN Environment Programme and ran a small foundation that supported kitchen table EJ and children’s environmental health groups. Parin began his EJ work by developing habitat restoration projects, food security and job-training programs for formerly incarcerated youth and adults in San Francisco. He began his community work in Tunisia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. When he is not geeking out on policy or watching/playing basketball, Parin loves to get into the soil and garden with his twelve year-old daughter in Oakland, CA.
Associate Director of Capacity Building, The Greenlining Institute
Emi holds a deep commitment to supporting communities of color to access the resources and skills needed to achieve self-determination. Our neighborhoods have been shaped by racist and exclusionary public policies, and we must double down on community ownership over the solutions. At Greenlining, Emi leads our capacity-building and locally-based work, helping to build the capacity of under-resourced communities to gain equitable opportunity to achieve our own transformations.