“Historic obstacles to taking action on climate change require historic solutions, and that’s what this plan delivers,” says Colin A., a field organizer with Virginia League of Conservation Voters’ Climate Action Team. Colin is working to get the investments made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act into the hands of their community in Hampton Roads, Virginia. “People are excited to get involved, and we now have funding for transportation, green energy, and environmental justice communities. The best thing about the IRA passing is having the resources to work on more. ”
Signed into law six months ago, the Inflation Reduction Act is a multi-billion dollar investment plan to bring people across the country affordable clean energy, jobs, and justice, including for poor communities of color that are too often left behind. Colin’s job is to empower people to understand what these investments mean for them at the local level.
Hampton Roads, VA is a pretty large, coastal metropolitan area with one of the largest harbor ports in the world and some of the country’s most vulnerable cities to climate. Colin added excitedly that for Virginians, passing the IRA means that “decarbonizing the ports is no longer a pipe dream.”
Colin gets to tell people, “Oh yeah, we can get funding for that. We have resources to combat these issues now. We can get this done.” Even if extreme right-wing Republicans try to hold the federal government hostage, getting this package out the door means that plenty of resources for climate action at the local level will continue to propel us towards a just and equitable future.
For example, this clean energy plan offers large sums of money for urban forestry grants. Trees in urban areas have incredible health benefits, including cleaner air. Colin talks about how these grants are game changers for people like a volunteer urban forester they know who keeps track of neighborhood trees. “He’s very knowledgeable about what is needed on the ground. Now I get to do the work of connecting those grants and figuring out how to work together to get from point A to point C using this giant toolbox we’ve been given.”
Bringing this “giant toolbox” to people who need it is an exciting next step for Colin. Colin started as a volunteer with LCV, then moved up to work as an organizer advocating for the IRA’s passage. Their favorite part about organizing with LCV full time is that they get to show up and work in solidarity with other causes, too, like racial justice and fair labor. “It feels really good to be at the forefront of an organization that is so devoted to intersectionality in the environmental movement, and which really puts the most importance on environmental justice. I feel really connected to a lot of different people doing a lot of different work, and it’s really expanded my horizons and awareness.”
The IRA is currently Colin’s avenue to do what they enjoy most: talking with people in grassroots spaces. “What truly gives me joy is working with other people. As long as I’m part of a team that makes other people’s lives better and is accomplishing some needs that the community has, I’m happy.”
Their message to the Biden administration? “The biggest obstacle to grassroots action is people having the time and the energy to do it. It’s great that we’ve passed these truly historic funds. There’s a lot of good stuff [in the IRA] that addresses justice issues that intersect with climate action, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs. That’s incredibly helpful; more services that keep money in your average everyday person’s pocket will help them free up time so they can get out there – and do more work like this.”