In the nationwide migration to clean and renewable energy, there is great need to implement a just transition that attends to the social dimensions of economic change and to learn from our collective experience when designing policies around best practices. Just Transition forms a major part of the urgent need to transition away from fossil-fuels without leaving behind the poorest and most vulnerable communities. By bringing together representatives from across corporate entities such as labor unions and power companies and connecting them with Faith organizations and people who are directly affected by a plant closing, FAN is proud to have built a broad based coalition of concerned citizens working together on a multi-site just transition initiative.
How Did this Work Begin?
After participating in the State of Appalachia conference in March 2018 to begin to problem solve and build relationships with faith and social justice leaders, we began to hear a recurring theme; many communities which were built around extractive industries are suffering from increased unemployment and economic insecurity. We used this as an opportunity to work through existing partnerships and build new ones with local stakeholders (including union leaders, energy company executives, faith-based organizers, and other community leaders and activists) to pilot the Just Transition Initiative.
FAN began having initial discussions with Edison Electric Institute (EEI) about building a coalition of faith groups and power companies to start to formulate a consensus of representatives across a broad spectrum of stakeholders to discuss the issue of just transition and develop a strategy of working together. We brought on Creation Justice Ministries as another Christian faith organization with wide reach and began periodic meetings with EEI who brought on Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Over the last year, we have expanded the coalition to include more faith organizations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Catholic Climate Covenant, as well as IBEW, the labor union which represents most power company workers with over 700,000 members.
Currently, we are hosting monthly meetings and have increased the number of power companies participating in the coalition from 1 to 8. We continue to reach out to interested organizations and have put a number of proposals together to develop a model for going forward. In 2020, we are looking forward to piloting the program in several sites around the country.
Latest Updates on Just Transition:
The coalition has identified several coal-affected communities for our pilot project where coal-fired plants are already in the process of closing. We have built upon relationships with faith communities, affected industry workers, frontline communities, and energy corporations bringing everyone to the table to discuss realistic solutions. We encourage local participation and leadership that helps to build the social cohesion we need to make real change. By helping communities to identify priorities, social and economic resources, and financial and technical barriers, we have begun to develop the capacity for a community-driven and long-term vision that creates jobs, equity, and access to other indicators of social well-being.
After our start in West Virginia, we have increased participation in Northern California and Western Michigan. We are also involved in a Franciscan-led initiative in the coal region of central Pennsylvania to pool faith and community resources and sponsor small community improvement activities in order to spark economic and social revitalization. This work has attracted the interest of federal and state agencies, who now regularly attend our meetings seeking to partner with faith groups and provide support.