As I joined the Illinois Environmental Council, I discovered that I would be dedicating the bulk of my time to just transition work. But what does “just transition” even mean?
Illinois continues to adopt clean energy for many reasons, namely because it is renewable, affordable and doesn’t emit harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At the same time, the fossil fuel industry, particularly companies running coal-fired power plants, grows increasingly aware that their days of operating dirty, polluting plants are numbered.
Rather than planning for a responsible and just closure of their operations, we’ve seen plants close with little community notice and next to zero plan for what happens next in the communities that have relied heavily on their presence in the community for jobs and significant tax revenue.
What does that mean for affected communities? They’re left in a lurch.
When families suddenly lose a significant source of income or when whole communities are left with no plan for making up critical lost tax revenue, making ends meet and funding schools becomes much more difficult. Without careful planning, jobs are lost with no plan for replacing them. Valuable, long-standing community members relocate in search of suitable employment, compounding their tax revenue losses. Local businesses take a hit when income levels drop. It’s a bad situation all around.
The uncertainty of workers’ future job security and the prospect of financial instability in these communities understandably makes many people want to hold onto these aging industries. The reality is that fossil fuel companies are already protecting their profits by shuttering plants across the nation, and trying to delay the inevitable can do real harm. Now is the time to do something about it. These communities have options, and they deserve the opportunity to plan for what comes next. They deserve a just transition to a clean, healthy and economically vibrant future.
A truly just transition to our clean energy future is an opportunity to reinvest in communities, reduce air pollution, create new, cleaner jobs for displaced energy workers and provide supplemental funding for lost tax revenue for local governments. It’s also an opportunity to support workers, meet them where they are, and engage them in the planning process. After all, if we aren’t empowering them with healthy, sustainable options, it’s just a transition– and not a just one.
More Blog Posts
“COP” stands for Conference of Parties and refers to the annual UN conference on climate change. This year will mark the 26th conference. Here’s what you need to know.Read More
Reconciliation Bill 101
Climate Deal or No Deal? As we live through the reality of the climate emergency, our planet and communities are suffering the harmful effects of dirty fossil fuels and unsustainable climate policy. Over the past two months, climate policy has been at the forefront of the budget reconciliation process and the time for bold climate legislation is now.Read More
Latinx Heritage Month: Youth Activists You Should Know
We asked 6 Youth Activists in the Latinx community how their identities have informed their activism. Scroll through to see their responses, get to know them, and follow!Read More