Is It in the Budget? Tracking the Progress of Justice40

New Roosevelt report assesses Justice40 as a groundbreaking model of governing for equity; unpacks significant challenges for implementing the policy and advancing its goals

April 18, 2022
Ariela Weinberger
(212) 444-9130

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008 spotlighting Justice40, a federal goal of targeting 40 percent of climate-related investments for the benefit of communities facing harmful legacies of environmental racism and the greatest risks from climate change. Drawing on decades of organizing and policy work by environmental justice (EJ) advocates, the initiative was initially seen as a historic opportunity to bring EJ from the margins to the center of federal policy and investment. 

More than a year into the Biden administration, however, the direction of policy and investment is mixed at best. The need for strong and consistent advocacy focused on ensuring that all federal spending potentially implicated in the health, resiliency, and prosperity of disadvantaged communities is consistently aligned around, and accountable to, Justice40 goals and principles has never been greater.          

A new Roosevelt Institute report, Justice40 and the Federal Budget: Challenges of Scale and Implementation, examines President Biden’s Justice40 policy from a budgetary perspective. It illuminates the spending trajectory for Justice40’s formally identified covered programs and points to misalignment between the anti-racist goals of Justice40 and other federal policies. Authored by Lew Daly, deputy director of climate policy, the report also looks at where Justice40 stands in relation to the infrastructure spending authorized in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and put forward in the Build Back Better proposal. It also calls for further expansion of Justice40 to include all relevant programs implicated in racial equity and achieving justice for disadvantaged communities.

The paper also:

  • Shares budget information and analysis that aid advocates in developing a cogent and coherent message of the need to advance and consolidate Justice40 as a policy of repair and transformation for frontline communities;
  • Explains why the 40 percent target is arbitrary and inadequate from a standpoint of historic and enduring racial disparities caused by government; and argues that 40 percent should be considered a starting point and not the goal in measuring progress of Justice40;  
  • Advances the idea of a Justice40 expansion pool of funding and the need for oversight and coordination of agencies in equitable implementation of climate investments and investments in areas targeted by Justice40 (e.g., transportation, sustainable housing, environmental justice, etc.);
  • Provides information to frontline advocates and policy allies about counterproductive investments in federal climate policy, specifically from a perspective of repair and racial justice in the climate transition; and  
  • Offers a platform of specific policy recommendations to strengthen the administrative structure and accountability of Justice40 in ways that are needed to durably expand its footprint in the federal budget.  

Insight from the author 

“It has become increasingly clear that public investment and intervention are essential for protecting us from climate catastrophe,” said Daly. “Justice40 has arrived at a crucial turning point in federal policy and spending commitments. Its challenges of scale and implementation will test not only the racial equity commitments of the current administration and its successors but also the broader promises of equity, justice, and democracy awaiting fulfillment in an age of climate reckoning.”