“I think each of us has a little bit of our own power to make change happen. When we work collectively, we put that power together. That’s how we’re going to win, and how we’ll be stronger and more resilient in the future.”
– A Seat At The Table participant
What does this mean and why is it important?
When we asked Kentuckians, “What will it take?” to make a just transition to a clean energy economy, the top two responses were: education and political will. And they shared lots of specific ideas related to those themes. Kentuckians want our elementary students, college students, voters, and elected officials to have a full and accurate understanding of complex energy and climate issues. We want our children to be well informed about clean energy options, and to have pathways to good jobs in the growing clean energy economy. We want our politicians to be well grounded in science. We want voters and public officials alike to be equipped to listen, learn, analyze, and lead.
Nearly every conversation we had about Kentucky’s energy future also revealed ways energy, climate, and just transition issues are linked to other important parts of our lives. To build just and sustainable communities, many people told us, we’ve got to grapple with issues of racial and economic justice. We’ve got to pay close attention to how our economy is structured and how our democracy works. We’ve got to have a strong social safety net, a fair tax system, and equitable public investments in education, art, infrastructure, and health and safety. And we’ve got to learn to treat each other well and build community.
Lastly, throughout this project many Kentuckians told us that their commitment to addressing climate change extends far beyond the electric power sector. A lot of good work is already in motion, and more is needed, to transform other essential systems. Across Kentucky, people are collaborating and innovating to build local food systems, reduce waste, design sustainable communities, and build our homes and transportation systems to be more resilient and less damaging to the land, air, water and climate. And as is true for energy issues, many of those strategies can also achieve other important co-benefits, including job creation and improved health outcomes.
The recommendations below are a sampling of the many specific responses we heard when we asked “What will it take to build a bright energy future in Kentucky?” Of course, any of these could be a jumping off point for a deeper planning process.
Empower Kentucky Recommendations
- Engage, educate and involve everyone about clean energy, climate, and just transition issues – – and the intersections with racial and economic justice.
- Kentucky’s K-12 schools should provide all students with a broad and accurate understanding of energy and climate issues and prepare them to work and lead in the clean energy economy.
- Kentucky’s community and technical colleges, colleges and universities, and vocational programs should prepare students for careers in the clean energy economy, including skills to research, analyze, design, build, install, repair, collaborate, and lead.
- Schools and colleges should support and encourage students at all levels to participate in real-world problem solving, do research, and think critically about data.
- Students at all levels should have opportunities to explore relationships between energy, economy, health, environment, climate, democracy, and culture; and they should be encouraged to consider the intersections with race, poverty, and principles of justice.
- Utilities and local governments should provide all customers and residents high quality, easy to understand information about ways to save energy, use more renewable energy, and benefit from clean energy programs and incentives.
- Together, Kentuckians should support and invest in art and culture, especially in artists and projects that provoke new thinking, create connections, and inspire diverse groups of people to work together to advance a just transition in Kentucky.
- Civic organizations and media should provide voters with access to good information about public policies and positions taken by candidates and elected officials on clean energy, climate and just transition (and so much more).
- Public officials should have a broad and accurate understanding of climate and energy issues, be informed by the best available science, listen to diverse viewpoints, and be responsive to the interests of all Kentuckians.
- Work together to build New Power, including new energy power, economic power and political power to advance a just transition in Kentucky.
- Organize and work to pass state and local policies that encourage homegrown clean energy businesses and open doors for more investments in locally owned clean energy projects.
- Build and support worker-owned and consumer-owned cooperatives that provide affordable energy efficiency and renewable energy services and build local wealth.
- Create opportunities for diverse people to share stories, build a shared vision, and learn and organize together for a bright energy future, one that is good for all Kentuckians.
- Join and build strong, diverse organizations, networks, and social movements to advance the Empower Kentucky Plan, win positive changes, and hold public officials accountable.
- Support elected leaders and candidates who lift up the vision and ideas of the Empower Kentucky Plan.
- Encourage good people – perhaps even yourself – to Empower Kentucky by running for office or providing leadership in other ways, including at home, work, and worship.
- Transform housing, food, transportation, waste, and other essential systems.
- Adopt policies and invest in strategies to improve soil health, avoid forest loss, and protect our watersheds and wetlands.
- Transform agriculture in ways that are more sustainable, less energy and chemically intensive, healthier, and more just for all who produce, process, buy, sell, and eat food.
- Adopt policies and invest in more energy efficient, affordable, and non-discriminatory housing, so that all Kentuckians have access to safe and secure housing.
- Develop and support meaningful, community solutions to prevent gentrification of communities; encourage community control over development decisions; and invest in strategies that make it possible for all people to live in healthy, sustainable, safe, and affordable communities.
- Invest in effective and efficient public transportation systems that serve rural and urban communities, and develop good infrastructure to support safe biking and walking within neighborhoods and community-wide.
- Design fair utility rates in ways that encourage and support the electrification of our public bus systems, and reduce harmful pollution by shifting as quickly as possible from diesel to electric buses.
- Adopt state, local and institutional policies to reduce food waste, encourage redistribution of excess good-quality food, and composting of food waste.