U.S. Environmental Justice Challenges in the Pursuit of a Low-Carbon Energy Future
103 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 1, 2022
This report brings into focus the cumulative environmental, social, energy, economic, and climate change related risks borne by local communities and identifies potential strategies to alleviate the burdens these risks impose. The cumulative risk profile discussed in this report is based on best practices conducted in leading states across the country and also adopted by the U.S. federal government. In particular, we evaluate a series of environmental, economic, and social indicators at the U.S. Census block group level that, combined, present a cumulative risk profile and display the inequities present among local communities. The indicators are derived from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California. To deepen our understanding of the pervasive inequities among local communities, we overlay the cumulative risk profile with community-level participation in the solar energy market. Policies that advance the solar energy market can learn from the overlap between indicators of injustice and existing solar energy market distributions.
We apply the term ‘low-carbon planning for all’ to frame the research included in this report. This approach contextualizes the ongoing renewable energy transition as communities with the least means are typically unable to fully participate in the society-wide transformation of the energy system and, as a result, are commonly denied several of the benefits that accrue from the switch to sustainable energy. To assess the possible benefits of a strategy of low-carbon planning for all, this report first structures the identification and classification processes available to characterize community vulnerabilities and needs. To gain understanding of cumulative risk profiles and their potential interactions with existing solar energy markets, we apply a case study assessment of the state of Delaware by mapping the state’s communities at the U.S. Census block group level. Our analysis produces, among others, a geospatial overview of Delaware’s cumulative risk profile. Our findings suggest the distribution of these communities are geospatially concentrated in a few parts of Delaware.
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