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Today, persistent racial disparities in pollution exposure and related health impacts are the norm. In 2020, a confluence of events—including George Floyd’s murder and COVID-19 impacts in communities of color— elevated race like never before during a presidential campaign year. A striking political result of these events and realities was then-candidate Joe Biden’s marked embrace of race-forward climate policy, including what came to be known as the Justice40 initiative.

Justice40’s investment policy is formulated in President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, which requires that designated federal agencies invest in such a way that a minimum of 40 percent of all climate-related funding across seven major policy areas—including climate mitigation, clean energy and energy efficiency, transportation, and sustainable and affordable housing—is directed for the benefit of disadvantaged communities. 

The Justice40 initiative is potentially a new and transformative way forward in governing for equity. It proposes a new, justice-centered paradigm for government investment in climate goods. Yet, Justice40 faces significant normative, policy, and administrative challenges that appear to be holding it back from fulfilling its promise, all of which need much more attention from advocates and policymakers to overcome.

In the executive summary for Justice40 and the Federal Budget: Challenges of Scale and Implementation, Lew Daly describes what Justice40 is and what is in the budget for it, and lays out next steps for the administration.