WE ACT Statement on New York State’s Climate Justice Working Group Adopting Criteria for Disadvantaged Communities

March 28, 2023
Contact: Chris Dobens, 718-679-8542, chris@weact.org


NEW YORK — Yesterday, New York State’s Climate Justice Working Group voted to approve and adopt the criteria for Disadvantaged Communities required to enact the Climate Act, the most ambitious climate agenda in the nation. Following extensive statewide public input on the proposed criteria identified and evaluated by the 13 members of this working group, they ultimately agreed on 45 indicators at the census tract level, including environmental burdens and climate change risks; sociodemographic factors such as age, race, and income; and health vulnerabilities.

In 2019, WE ACT for Environmental Justice helped pass New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, also known as the Climate Act, which mandates that the state reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050, based on 1990 levels. And we helped ensure that equity was baked into this new law, requiring that no less than 35 percent – with a goal of at least 40 percent – of the benefits of these climate actions go to Disadvantaged Communities.

But what exactly is a Disadvantaged Community? Sonal Jessel was part of the state’s Climate Justice Working Group, which was tasked with recommending the appropriate guidelines to define Disadvantaged Communities. Everyone will benefit from these investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air pollution as well as improving energy efficiency and developing clean sources of energy, but clearly defining Disadvantaged Communities ensures that at least 35 percent of those benefits go to the communities across the state most impacted by climate and other environmental burdens.

You can view the criteria, learn more about the process, and see the map(s) of New York’s Disadvantaged Communities here.

“This is a major step for climate justice in New York State,” explained Sonal Jessel, WE ACT’s Director of Policy and a member of New York State’s Climate Justice Working Group. “It will ensure that we deliver long-overdue investments to the communities most burdened by climate and environmental injustices.”

WE ACT would like to take this opportunity to thank New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Doreen Harris for their leadership on this.

What’s next? Making sure that this map is used across all of the state’s agencies and programs, so that the communities that deserve these benefits are the ones actually receiving them.

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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