Mertz Gilmore Foundation

Building Climate Justice on the Frontlines of Energy Transition

An interview with Rachael Young, Program Officer at the Mertz Gilmore Foundation

Provide a bit of background about your foundation’s support of just transition. (What is your foundation’s specific area of focus or role within the broader transition movement?)

Through our climate justice program, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation focuses on building the power of communities who are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, fossil fuel pollution, and the inequities in our current energy system—primarily communities of color and low-wealth white communities. We believe that communities on the frontlines of the crisis should be leading the way in the transition to a new, clean energy economy that is not dependent on extractive industry and that is grounded in economic, environmental, and racial justice.

Why is your foundation supporting just transition work in coal communities? What element of this work is most motivating?

As the energy landscape shifts across the country, the coal industry’s steep decline is negatively impacting communities and workers whose livelihoods have long depended on it. At the same time, these communities have an opportunity to create new economies that are diversified and resilient, that protect workers, and in which economic prosperity is broadly shared. As our country undergoes an inevitable energy and economic transition, coal communities are among those at the forefront of creating a vision for what is possible, generating the necessary political will for systemic solutions, and advancing concrete policies and programs.

Why has your foundation decided to support the Just Transition Fund?

Just transition requires bottom-up, place-based solutions and scale, as well as coordination at all levels. To this end, the Just Transition Fund plays a vitally important, multifaceted role in supporting the just transition movement to both achieve depth and breadth of impact. Its team has the knowledge and set of relationships necessary to effectively resource just transition work, while also providing coal communities with access to specialized expertise. As a hub for the broader movement, the Fund also creates unique opportunities for leaders from different places and sectors to learn from each other’s work and strategize together.