Mônica Haddad: Job Training and Climate Justice: Paving the Way for Disadvantaged Residents in Urban Areas


Mônica Haddad (Community and Regional Planning): Job Training and Climate Justice: Paving the Way for Disadvantaged Residents in Urban Areas

In the Spring of 2021, I received a research grant from the ISU Center for Excellence in Arts and Humanities. This grant was crucial to conduct a research project, which I will present in Toronto, next week in the largest planning-related conference in North America.

Today I will share with you a bit of the project entitled - Job Training and Climate Justice: Paving the Way for Disadvantaged Residents in Urban Areas. Efforts to mitigate climate change should be implemented in ways that further justice, so that the low-carbon economy can promote changes in the socio-economic structure of society, making it more equitable. In the United States, this is crucial because society is characterized by inequalities that affect the non-white population in greater numbers. Considering that climate adaptation and mitigation efforts can unfold on a variety of scales, this project focused on American cities. Seeing as around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the built environment alone, it is imperative to promote changes that contribute to transforming cities into areas free of carbon pollution.

To further climate justice on the scale of cities, specifically focusing on the built environment, two broad interrelated approaches should be contemplated: that

focusing on inclusion and that which seeks to enhance upward mobility. In the inclusionary approach, it is imperative that plans related to adaptation and mitigation adopt the lens of equity and justice to stem the unequal distribution of these benefits. In the upward mobility approach, climate justice should target the large income gap that exists between the richest and the poorest. If this gap is overlooked during the transition to a low-carbon economy, then adaptation and mitigation through the built environment may not improve livelihoods for disadvantaged populations, but instead, replicate the unfair status quo with lower GHG. This project focused on the second of the two approaches.

When climate justice is linked to upward mobility, such changes can consist in making green jobs available to those who need them the most. Jobs are considered “green” when they respect the environment, promote environmental conservation, and help decrease GHG. With this context in mind, this study investigated how and to what extent programs included disadvantaged residents in the green workforce through training for local green jobs. We compared 14 different training programs across the U.S., conducting 17 in-depth interviews with program staff and analyzing the contents of programs’ materials available online. Our findings indicate that there is a need for city governments to be more

involved in initiatives to further climate justice at the urban scale, specifically focusing their efforts on workforce development for disadvantaged residents. Based on our findings, we offer several recommendations to inform Climate Adaptation Action Plans: going beyond the basic green training curriculum, expanding public green projects in cities, attracting innovative and bold leaders to the public sector, and improving access to training opportunities. The identification of these practices provides knowledge to support a win-win situation between social equity and environmental conservation in cities.

The grant was used to pay for gift cards for participants, and to pay for undergraduate research assistants. Most important, the grant was used to hire Alexandra Sick as my URA. She shared with me that with this research experience she became more aware of her passions within the planning field, and how to tailor her degree to these interests. From this experience, she has improved her written communication skills and ability to analyze qualitative data which will be important tools post-graduation. This project brought her knowledge that she would not have learned in the traditional classroom and allowed her to have a mentorship that has provided lots of guidance for beginning her career.

Thank you for the CEAH grant support, after Toronto, I will submit the manuscript to the Journal of the American Planning Association. Alexandra will be listed as my co-author, given all her contributions to the project.