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Ohio Climate Justice Fund: Working for a Just and Inclusive Clean Energy Future

Courtesy Ohio Climate Justice Fund

Energy Foundation is proud to partner with the Ohio Climate Justice Fund (OCJF), an initiative investing in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizations, working at the intersection of racial justice and climate action. The fund is the first of its kind in Ohio, created specifically to provide resources and build the power necessary to influence policy change and help move the state toward a just and inclusive clean energy future. 

Ohio lags behind most states in environmental protection and is the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S. Ohio also has some of the highest asthma rates in the country. And the cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati are consistently in non-compliance with the Clean Air Act.

As we strive to achieve a clean energy future that benefits us all, it is important to center how both historical and present-day injustices have left BIPOC folks disproportionately affected by climate change. Since the early 20th century, BIPOC communities have been used as dumping grounds for heavy industry with little regard for their health and well-being. A study conducted by the Clean Air Task Force identified that African Americans are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than White Americans, and are 75 percent more likely to live in communities that border a plant or factory. The fight against climate change and racial injustice are the same fight. 

Using the Listen. Lead. Share (LLS) model born out of the Illinois effort to adopt clean energy and climate policies, OCJF is implementing a grassroots approach to intentionally and authentically engage communities in public conversations to determine their priorities and envision the most effective ways to achieve climate and environmental justice. The adaptability of the LLS model prioritizes a “from the community, for the community” approach, ensuring that communities have the agency to build a diverse coalition of advocates.

Of the approximately $1 billion annually allocated to environmental and climate grantmaking, only a small percentage finds its way to BIPOC-led environmental justice organizations—a funding disparity that  has and will continue to hinder our collective ability to reach an equitable climate future.

Photo courtesy Ohio Climate Justice Fund

Together with the Gund and Cleveland foundations, we at Energy Foundation are excited to fund the OCJF and support the organization’s efforts to elevate the leadership of Ohioans who are working at the intersection of racial justice and climate action. In just a year from its initial convening, the OCJF already has granted $231,000 to nine organizations, building their first cohort of grantees across Ohio, and already has opened the application for another round of funding. 

With the help of an advisory board of Ohio environmental advocates and leaders who advise and guide investments, the inaugural cohort of grant award recipients included: A.C.T.I.O.N., INC. (Youngstown);  Columbus Stand Up (Columbus); Groundwork Ohio River Valley (Cincinnati); Junction Coalition (Toledo); National Association of Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Cleveland Branch (Cleveland); Promise of Democracy Foundation, Inc. (Cleveland);  See You at The Top (Cleveland); The Johnson Legacy Project (Cleveland); and Urban Impact Community Development Corporation (Lima)

Using the LLS model, these grantees will prioritize authentic community outreach as the first step in building grassroots engagement in support of equitable clean energy policies.

2020 was a year of crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent economic crisis, and a renewed national reckoning on racial justice. We all have had to reevaluate how our professional and personal roles have reinforced systemic inequities. We’ve had to learn how to continue doing the work while surrounded by the loss of life, time, and security. Yet, we have persisted and have done so in a way that is beginning to pave a path for advocates across regions, sectors, and values.

The OCJF is just the beginning of ensuring capital investments start to reach historically excluded communities whose voices are integral to the climate justice movement. We hope its work will inspire others in the climate and clean energy space to look toward building power and encouraging conversations with frontline communities.

To learn more about the Ohio Climate Justice Fund, their dynamic advisory board, their values, and the funding opportunity, visit; watch their pre-recorded informational session; and follow them on Twitter (@OhioCJFund), Facebook, and LinkedIn to see the latest updates. You may also email Leah D. Hudnall, Director, to arrange a brief 1:1 informational session.