Amplifying Community Voices in Decision-Making Around Climate Change

September 25, 2023

Members of the Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Community Engagement team walk on top of a covered swine waste lagoon during a site visit in August 2022 (Photo: Courtesy of Erin Fleck).
Members of the Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Community Engagement team walk on top of a covered swine waste lagoon during a site visit in August 2022 (Photo: Courtesy of Erin Fleck)

How can North Carolina’s efforts to address climate change include community members’ input and take steps to reduce racial and economic inequities?

While the state has a laudable goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in electric power production by more than two-thirds in the next seven years, choices about how to reach that goal can have unintended consequences. For example, using swine waste biogas to offset emissions from fossil fuels has advantages, but it could increase energy bills and create pollution hotspots in low-income communities due to antiquated waste management technology.

Members of the Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Community Engagement team walk on top of a covered swine waste lagoon during a site visit in August 2022 (Photo: Courtesy of Erin Fleck)To explore these issues, the Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Community Engagement team analyzed the process of stakeholder engagement during the development of North Carolina’s 2022 Carbon Plan, work that included consultation with environmental justice leaders throughout the state. Identifying missed opportunities to incorporate local voices in decision making, the team documented their findings in a report.

Next, the team created a Stakeholder Participation Bill of Rights, incorporating principles and practices gleaned from discussions with environmental justice leaders, community organizers and policymakers. The Bill of Rights then informed criteria for a Stakeholder Participation Scorecard, a resource to empower community members and support facilitators in creating equitable, effective and fair mechanisms to solicit public input.

“[This] Bass Connections team was one of the most … dynamic experiences I had in my time at the Nicholas School. This opportunity brought together students from all corners of the Duke community to learn and grow together in our understanding of community engagement and our shared desires to strengthen the community voice in the energy transition. I’m excited about what the team was able to accomplish together with community members from eastern North Carolina!” –Erin Fleck, Master of Environmental Management, 2023; Field Director at Oceana

Check out this team’s profile in our Virtual Showcase, and explore more 2022-2023 team outcomes in the Bass Connections Annual Report!

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