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A Just Transition: A Q&A with Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee, Co-Executive Directors, Climate Justice Alliance

May 04, 2022

Headshots_ozawa_bineshi_albert_monica_atkins_marion_gee_climate_justice_alliance_PhilanTopicLaunched in 2013, Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is an alliance of 82 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations, and supporting networks working to advance a Just Transition away from extractive systems of production, consumption, and political oppression and toward resilient, regenerative, and equitable economies. Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee have led the organization as co-executive directors since July 2021.

Albert joined CJA from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)—a founding member of CJA—where she was a founding board member and helped create an Indigenous Feminist Organizing School and an International Feminist Organizing School. She began her organizing career with the Coalition for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Native Lands’ Toxics Campaign at Greenpeace and has held leadership positions at SAGE Council, the Center for Community Change, the SouthWest Organizing Project. Atkins, who previously worked for Cooperation Jackson as well as several labor organizations, became CJA’s southeast regional organizer in 2017 and organizing director in 2020. She has helped advance the organization’s Black Caucus in its efforts to engage frontline Black communities and to hold spaces for and center Black leadership within the climate justice movement. And Gee, who served as managing director at CJA from 2015 to 2021, previously worked as a fundraising, events, and communications consultant for social and environmental justice organizations, as development and communications director at Rose Foundation, and as interim climate program director at Sierra Nevada Alliance

PND asked the co-executive directors about what a Just Transition entails, the organization’s priorities, the shared leadership structure, the importance of centering BIPOC communities within the climate justice movement, and the climate solutions announced at COP26.

Philanthropy News Digest: What does a Just Transition look like, in concrete terms?

Marion Gee: When we think of a Just Transition, we think of the transition that many of our members are already bringing to life in their own communities. That is because first and foremost, Just Transition is a local, place-based vehicle to move away from the harmful dig, burn, dump, fossil fuel economy—what we call the extractive economy—to one that is grounded in communities’ well-being and livelihoods. For example, in the neighborhood of Sunset Park in Brooklyn, New York, on an industrial waterfront that has been historically polluted, over half of the residents are people of color and immigrants and largely working class. The poverty rate is above the city average and affordable housing is out of reach for many. This community was one of the many that was hit with flooding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

A local community organization, UPROSE, organized with their neighbors and other partners to spearhead what would become the first community-owned solar cooperative in New York State—an 80,000-square-foot rooftop solar garden that residents of Sunset Park can subscribe to own— and which is set to be up and running next year. This will save around 200 households and small businesses on their utility bills and will provide clean energy for the first time to these families. Essentially, the community found a way to transition to an energy source that would lessen the fossil fuel pollution they had been exposed to for decades—which had caused high rates of asthma and other disease—and built a community-owned and designed alternative that would ensure community empowerment, health, and wealth. That is what we mean by a Just Transition....

Read the full Q&A with Ozawa Bineshi Albert, Monica Atkins, and Marion Gee, co-executive directors of the Climate Justice Alliance.

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