The Power of Partnerships: Working to Build an Inclusive Green Economy

Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins | CEO, Green For All |

Originally posted on The Great Energy Challenge Blog

The headlines from the State of the Union said, “Clean Energy.” What I heard was: “we need to do this together.”

President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda to spur innovation and remain competitive globally. But he also used that agenda to send an important message in a fractured political time: The time for division has passed.

The case for robust investment in clean energy is clear: the wind, solar and biofuels industries are expanding at a time when so many others are contracting.

At Green For All, we have a history of building coalitions with government leaders and innovators at all levels and in all sectors of society.

We build on this work every day. Last month, Green For All was proud to join with the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the U.S. Black Chamber and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials to organize a meeting with the goal of building an inclusive clean energy economy.

Meeting with a range of government and business leaders, we discussed ways to work together to bring good-paying green jobs and clean air to every neighborhood in America.

Of particular interest to us: oft-neglected low-income communities. They disproportionately suffer from the energy crisis. Families already struggling can’t afford rising costs of heating their homes, and the fallout from energy creation settles in their backyards. Literally.

Despite their pressing needs, the poor have little voice in the debate over economic and environmental policy—they can’t afford lobbyists.

It’s time to give them that voice. Bringing their concerns to the table is a win for all parties; a diversity of perspectives generates more ideas, and steers conversations in a more productive direction.

At the table, we stress the need for clean energy education. Communities deserve to know about the benefits of installing energy efficient windows, weatherizing homes and changing their thermostats, which, in the long run, will cut energy costs. Increasing access to this knowledge will empower people to create environmentally sustainable lives.

At the table, we also fight to make clean energy the equal opportunity sector; future policies must require that the green jobs created are available to the most qualified applicants—regardless of class or background.

All the poor ask for is a chance; now is our moment to give them that chance to succeed. But, we must seize this moment as partners—nothing significant is accomplished alone.

That’s why Green For All has partnered with groups like the American Association of Blacks in Energy, which is doing great work to inform and inspire communities today, so that they can be ready for tomorrow’s energy challenges.

Together, we are fighting for the cleaner, fairer future that the next generation deserves, and are glad that President Obama has championed the potential of the clean energy economy.

Now, it’s up to us—working as partners— to turn this promise into progress for all.

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