Bringing Paris Home

12/10/2015 05:35 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2016

As activists from around the world spend their final days in Paris at the United Nations climate summit, we are re-committing to solving the climate crisis back home.

Frontline communities - from indigenous communities in the U.S. to island nations - have raised their voices to demand mandatory, not voluntary, emissions cuts and a just transition. Their chants of "1.5 to stay alive" have created unexpected momentum to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The devil will be in the details in how the goal is implemented. And while climate change is a global crisis, we will continue to see the impacts locally on our cities, our neighborhoods and our homes.

It is also at the local level that we see how climate change is inextricably linked to inequality, reflecting the power dynamics that are currently playing out internationally. As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, the sudden shocks of climate change shine a light on the deep inequality in our cities as low-income people and communities of color are hit hardest and left stranded without the resources to recover. As we anticipate future super storms, floods and droughts, it is these same communities that have the most to lose and also the most leadership to contribute toward climate solutions.

That is why it is critical that we do not rely solely on international and national action, but instead create local climate solutions to decrease carbon emissions, improve climate resiliency and move towards a just transition.

At the Partnership for Working Families we are developing city-level climate solutions that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and inequality simultaneously. We are targeting many of the resources cities control, which have significant impacts on climate change, including energy, transportation, building stock, waste and recycling, water and infrastructure.

In New York, our local affiliate ALIGN and its partners created Climate Works for All, a 10-point plan that will create 40,000 jobs annually and cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 12 million metric tons of carbon equivalent, helping New York City achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. The plan expands on the post-Sandy Alliance for a Just Rebuilding that marshaled $750 million towards New York climate resiliency projects with a targeted local hiring program in frontline communities. In Los Angeles, our local affiliate LAANE is leveraging key infrastructure including community solar and water while creating career pathways into both construction and permanent operating jobs. Pittsburgh UNITED's Clean Rivers Campaign is advocating for a green and equitable approach toward overhauling the city's water infrastructure. In Seattle, Puget Sound Sage is shaping a state-wide carbon reduction policy and building the local infrastructure to ensure communities of color and workers are able to define the solutions for a climate resilient future. In Boston, affiliate CLU's green justice coalition won a $2.5B investment in public transit that it paired with a 5% cap on fare increases. In Atlanta, affiliate Georgia STAND-UP and their partners secured funding for the expansion of public transit in Clayton County. CLU and GSU are now working to expand funding sources for green infrastructure projects that would also create union jobs.

Together with our affiliates, we are building a vision of a clean energy future built on justice and equity. This vision ensures that all communities have access to renewable sources of energy and public transit, that all neighborhoods are supported by resilient infrastructure and that all families have access to good jobs to ensure they have the resources to weather the inevitable storms ahead.

We do not have to wait for action from Congress or Paris. We can address our climate crisis and rampant inequality simultaneously. And we have the power to do it in our cities right now.