Low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate share of transportation emissions. This reinforces the importance of giving stakeholders in these groups a voice in the environmental justice conversation.
To advance these discussions, Edison Energy recently hosted an Impact Roundtable on Accelerating Equity. It focused on the intersection of environmental justice and transportation, and looked closely at how to share the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) faster and more broadly — highlighting social, environmental, and economic concerns.
The discussion featured Leslie Aguayo, senior advisor for Transportation and Energy Justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Richard Ezike, program communication specialist for the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation; and Nneka Kibuule, principal at Aligned Climate Capital.
Moderated by Edison Energy Transportation Electrification Analyst Imani Love, each panelist addressed three essential transportation electrification transition considerations:
- Ensuring affordability, so EVs become consumer goods, not just luxuries
- Establishing access to EVs and supply equipment (EVSE) such as electric vehicle chargers
- Creating meaningful involvement in the transition for low- and moderate-income communities and marginalized communities of color
Communities that have historically experienced racial discrimination, segregation, and exclusion will benefit if changemakers keep these considerations top of mind.
Transportation decarbonization via electrification cannot truly flourish if economically disadvantaged people are unable to access and maintain EVs, especially when they also face significant financial barriers, such as energy burdens. Richard Ezike stated that when individuals who identify as low- or moderate-income think of EVs, they often conclude that they can’t take part in the transition because “they think $100,000 Tesla car.” He said, “we need to expose more cheaper cars” to increase the likelihood that low-income people will lease or buy an EV. In addition, expanding the availability of financial incentives for EV procurement like those in the Inflation Reduction Act will provide an extra enticement to EV buyers. Lower-priced EVs along with incentives can simultaneously increase the number on the road, broaden their availability within historically underserved communities, and begin to close the equity gap associated with EV adoption.
A critical message for frontline communities is that the electrification movement is local and within reach, and their involvement is crucial to achieving larger decarbonization goals. That starts by deliberately investing in and installing reliable charging networks in places that are readily accessible to people who aren’t typically the focus of EV marketing. Ride-share programs can also benefit people who may not be able to buy an EV, allowing them to interact with clean energy transportation options.
Examining accessibility from an economic perspective, community-based organizations require funding to support data collection, research, and project implementation. Grants are available, but awareness of these grants is often lacking, creating a barrier to fully accessing the available funding. Leslie Aguayo said that federal funding can support local non-profits with technical assistance and capacity-building, so they can self-actualize local projects that meet their community’s environmental justice needs.
As Nneka Kibuule stated, “diversity of thoughts yields better returns.” She said that determining lasting solutions requires meaningful engagement with community members and local organizations. Consistent communication, active listening, compensation for community members’ time, following through on initiatives, and examining thoroughly how programs and initiatives will impact the people to be served all are important. These allow decision-makers and community stakeholders to trade information on:
- The current state of transportation options, and how they impact rural, urban, or suburban communities
- Who the community members are, and who they consider to be important stakeholders
- The current state of community land use
Ongoing engagement with a community’s stakeholders, residents, and local organizations can help build a support network for the EV transition; equitable access to EV infrastructure; and a fair share of the societal, environmental, and economic benefits of electrification.
The Bottom Line
As the transition accelerates, it is imperative for business interests to increase their knowledge of environmental justice, recognize their transportation-related impacts, and create a plan—in partnership with affected communities—for a decarbonized fleet that benefits everyone.
Edison Energy’s Environmental Justice experts can help you develop a strategy to transition your fleet in a way that’s just and equitable. Contact us to learn more about our Environmental Justice services in Transportation Electrification.
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