From air and water pollution to natural disasters and more, disadvantaged communities have historically suffered most from environmental and climate-related impacts. These historic and continuing harms are in part the legacy of racist policies and entrenched power disparities in key areas of governance such as budgeting, regulation, and administration. 

In January 2021, President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” authorized the Justice40 initiative, establishing a federal goal that 40 percent of climate-related investments be targeted to benefit communities experiencing harmful legacies of environmental racism and the greatest risks from climate change. Justice40 aims to ensure racial equity and economic justice for the most vulnerable communities as we tackle the climate crisis, and is guided by two overarching purposes—one reparative and one transformative: to repair the damage of historic climate-related harms and prevent future ones, and to create jobs, improve health, and create climate resilience for frontline communities.

In Justice40 and the Federal Budget: Challenges of Scale and Implementation, Lew Daly examines the Biden administration’s Justice40 policy from a budgetary perspective and looks at the status of Justice40 funding in relation to the infrastructure spending authorized in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Build Back Better proposal (BBB).

Daly’s analysis:

  • Shows the spending trajectory for Justice40’s formally identified covered programs, including new spending authorized in IIJA and proposed in BBB; 
  • Compares new and proposed spending for Justice40 covered programs to other investments in policies and programs considered harmful by many advocates, pointing to misalignment between Justice40’s anti-racist goals and other federal policies; 
  • Calculates new  IIJA-authorized and BBB-proposed spending that is fully or partially targeted for disadvantaged communities but not included in Justice40, underscoring the need to ensure that all federal spending for disadvantaged communities be consistently aligned around Justice40 goals and principles;
  • Identifies major climate and energy investments that do not prioritize disadvantaged communities, calling for further expansion of Justice40 to include all programs related to achieving justice for disadvantaged communities; and
  • Outlines a set of questions and policy recommendations to address major challenges for advancing Justice40.