FOR THE WIN! HOW LOCAL CLIMATE JUSTICE MOVEMENTS ARE SHIFTING MEDIA NARRATIVES AND COLLECTING VICTORIES (PART ONE)

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We will be sharing the stories of two 2016 ReFrame mentees working to win climate justice and stop the climate crisis. Keep an eye out for Part Two early next week!

For 2016 mentee Kay Cuajunco, the communications staff person at the California Environmental Justice Alliance, shifting the media narrative around climate change was key to several winning campaigns that CEJA led this year.

“The dominant narrative in terms of climate in California is that we’re already doing enough, that we’re already a climate leader, that we’ve already had the most progressive greenhouse gas emissions targets,” Cuajunco said. “The environmental justice narrative is: California isn’t actually doing enough on climate, and we need to center equity to really see the community-led solutions become reality in the most overburdened regions that need it most.”

CEJA believes that climate change policy must place communities of color at the center of efforts to create climate equity. To that end, CEJA supported several bills, from ones that would directly cut emissions even further to bills that would increase climate change spending in frontline communities. The centerpiece of their legislative campaigns this past year was AB 2722, also called the Transformative Climate Communities bill. This bill, co-sponsored by CEJA, called for the creation of an innovative program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while getting resources into underserved communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate change.


​”The environmental justice narrative is: California isn’t actually doing enough on climate, and we need to center equity to really see the community-led solutions become reality in the most overburdened regions that need it most.”

According to Cuajunco, many of the bills CEJA was supporting were stuck in limbo by the early summer, including AB 2722. “Our bills were passing through committees, but we faced a lot of opposition from moderate Democrats and the Big Oil industry,” she said. “That was the moment we really had to choose our intervention and think about what message are we sending, and who’s our audience and who’s our targets. We needed to creatively and strategically shift the narrative to one of a long overdue program.”​

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The support of ReFrame was critical in that moment, and, as Cuajunco put it, helped CEJA integrate communication strategy in all aspects of their organizing plan. “What is our opposition saying, and how can we introduce a counter narrative that says we need to follow the leadership of the most impacted? We really wanted the vision to be driven by community needs,” she said. 

Do you want to join the next generation of communications strategists? Apply for our 2017 cohort today: www.reframementorship.org

CEJA rolled out a communications plan that focused on lifting up stories and existing solutions from communities working at the grassroots level, making the argument that these programs would benefit from more state support to bring them to scale.

​“Communities of color are on the frontlines of pollution and climate change, but for too long, we haven’t seen the kind of investments that will develop and implement innovative, neighborhood-led sustainability plans on a scale that environmental justice communities truly need,” Cuajunco said.

These efforts were remarkably successful. By the end of the summer, Governor Jerry Brown had signed six climate justice bills into law, including AB 2722. One of the projects that could potentially be funded by the new Transformative Climate Communities program is a Climate Resilience Hub in South Los Angeles. This hub would support small business development and local job training in the clean energy sector and serve as a model for community planning, climate resilience, and investment in underserved communities.

As Cuajunco noted, “People of color are the new majority in California, and we need to be the ones to advance community-led solutions around climate change.” She added, “ReFrame helped us see that we need to be positioned as a critical voice in environmental and climate policy.”

Do you want to join the next generation of communications strategists? Apply for our 2017 cohort today: www.reframementorship.org

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