Social Equity: The Missing Leg of the Three-Legged Stool of Climate Action
While many of the climate action plans, now adopted in over 120 cities and counties, pay lip service to social and economic justice, too few contain concrete and specific actions at a level equal to the environmental standards of the documents, argues Murtaza Baxamusa, Ph.D., AICP, who develops affordable housing for the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation and teaches urban planning at the University of Southern California (USC).
"Sustainability is framed as a three-legged stool consisting of the three ‘E’s: environment, economy and equity. However, the third leg, social and economic equity, is often the weakest," says Baxamusa.
He goes on to note:
In an earlier article, I have argued that community empowerment is a necessary condition for sustainability. This is because empowerment balances out the forces that make our world unsustainable. I will further argue that sustainability itself can distribute justice, creating a benevolent reinforcing cycle between empowerment, engagement and equity. For example, sustainable modes of commuting like transit, walking and biking promote social movements through increased social interactions in the public domain. And consequently, these social movements both use and politically support these modes.
Baxamusa also proposes three strategies for "integrating equity within climate actions plans:"
- Establish enforceable thresholds for equity issues such as poverty/income, affordable housing, transportation/transit, and targeted socio-economic benefits.
- Integrate equity in the administration and implementation of all environmental plans, policies and regulations throughout city departments.
- Institutionalize diversity in terms of both leadership, as well as in outreach among stakeholders.