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Over the last half decade, local climate action plans have regularly come to incorporate considerations of racial and socioeconomic equity, recognizing the ways in which low-income communities and communities of color experience earlier and worse consequences from global warming, and these communities are also at risk of being harmed by policies meant to address climate change. Until now, however, the discourse on equity in climate action planning has largely pertained to policy; it acknowledges the disproportionate harm that certain communities experience as a result of climate change and policies to address climate change, and suggests policy tools that can address these disparities. Missing is a discussion of why local governments are compelled or strongly encouraged by law to develop climate plans that aim to address racial and socioeconomic inequity alongside rising GHG emissions. This Article seeks to fill in the missing legal context for why equitable climate action planning is strongly encouraged by three aspects of federal law: the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and recent federal law developments like the Inflation Reduction Act and Justice40. While none of these mandate that local governments consider equity in their climate action planning, they do provide a compelling legal argument for local climate policy that is equitable and racially just.

The Article explores all three areas of federal law and suggests ways in which they might interplay with equitable local climate action planning. In addition to delineating new applications for these areas of federal law, the research seeks to provide a legal rationale for local climate policy that is just and equitable that can support local government efforts when their climate action plans face political, fiscal, legal, and other forms of challenge.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Environmental Law | Environmental Policy | Law | State and Local Government Law