A 2023 Annual Meeting plenary session asked the question, “What Does Environmental Justice Look Like at the Intersection of Green Infrastructure and Climate Resilience?” It featured 3 recorded presentations followed by an audience discussion session. Below are 3 takeaways from each speaker and 3 highlights from the audience discussion:

Carlos Claussel, City of Philadelphia Environmental Justice Advisory Commissioner

  • “What does environmental justice look like? It looks like prioritizing EJ communities … when planning and implementing green infrastructure and climate resilience strategies. That’s it.”
  • We need to prioritize EJ communities and treat them as true stakeholders of this process. This means we conduct due diligence to better understand the intersections between environmental compliance and issues impacting these communities (public health, cost of living, displacement). “When communities lead and co-lead efforts, we go from the worst possible outcomes to the best ones.”
  • “We also need to frame the co-benefits that come from GSI implementation as community-centered benefits first. That means that public health outcomes, workforce development opportunities, and economic opportunities are treated at the same level as environmental compliance.”

Dr. Angela Chalk, Executive Director, Healthy Community Services (HCS), New Orleans, LA

  • “[Communities of color] are the first and the last to recover from hard rain events.”
  • Working with Waterwise Gulf South, HCS has been able to engage and empower residents to remediate and mitigate flooding.
  • Resident-driven projects are bringing millions of dollars in ecosystem benefits to the City of New Orleans.

Paula Conolly, Director of Local Engagement, U.S. Water Alliance

  • “The effects of climate change are felt the most by those with the least resources to adapt to and recover from it.”
  • “We need to build resilience for everyone so everyone should have access to green infrastructure.”
  • “We need a new and shared standard for GI that maximizes benefits while minimizing harms (displacement, poor maintenance). There are six characteristics of high impact GI discussed in the Exchange’s recently-released State of Public Sector GSI report:
    • Proper maintenance
    • Regular inspection
    • Provision of multiple benefits
    • Prioritization of vegetative practices
    • Centering community
    • Assessment of impact


  • Which intersections (between green infrastructure and climate resilience) can you leverage to move towards environmental justice? Flooding & heat resilience, alternative sources of funding; one table highlighted the difficulty of leverage when there is so much focus on compliance and so few resources at the disposal of smaller agencies to do the work required.
  • Who do you need to build relationships with to advance environmental justice through your work? Community gatekeepers, workforce development professionals, other agencies, especially those focused on affordable housing, policy makers, so that addressing EJ becomes a permit condition, designers.
  • What’s at risk if environmental justice is not centered in our work? Perpetuation of the status quo, sustained inequities, gentrification and displacement, leaving people behind, missing opportunities to enhance environmental literacy, repeating a history of distrust in local government.


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