Media Falls Short on Climate Equity, Justice, and Communities of Color

Media Falls Short on Climate Equity, Justice, and Communities of Color

Increasingly, the voices of women are being included in media coverage of clean energy, a report from the Solutions Project, a grantmaking charity working to accelerate the transition to 100 percent clean energy, finds.

The second edition of the annual study, Renewable Energy Narrative Trends 2019 (33 pages, PDF), examined more than twenty-three hundred news and clean energy-related opinion articles published by national, online, trade, and alternative media outlets and found that 42 percent of all articles — and 62 percent of articles that quoted someone — quoted a female lawmaker or spokesperson, double the percentage for articles published in 2018. The percentage of articles that referred to equity and justice, however, fell to 6 percent, from 10 percent in 2018, while only 2 percent — down from 7 percent — referred to communities of color, which are both disproportionately harmed by climate change and air pollution and are spearheading solutions to address those issues.

Conducted by Conspire for Good, the study also identified three dominant narrative trends in 2019: an increase in positive coverage of renewable energy as a result of heightened public awareness and the inclusion of renewable energy policy prescriptions in mainstream political discourse, with most of it related to the Democratic presidential primary race and the Green New Deal; waning coverage of business investments in renewable energy in favor of political discussion of the issue; and an increase in debate over how, when, why, and on whose dime renewable energy projects should be implemented.

"These findings illustrate that women policy makers are getting well-deserved media attention for advancing a 100 percent clean energy agenda," said Solutions Project executive director Sarah Shanley Hope. "However, women — especially women of color — who are doing on-the-ground work to promote a just transition to 100 percent clean energy aren't being quoted in news stories with a frequency that accurately reflects their expertise or the positive impact they are having on people's lives. They are making their communities more climate resilient, reducing energy bills, and creating economic opportunities."

"From engaging with utility regulators to developing solar projects that benefit their communities, grassroots leaders, particularly women of color, are playing a key role in moving this country to 100 percent clean energy for all," said Chandra Farley, director of Just Energy at the Partnership for Southern Equity in Atlanta. "It's imperative that the stories and voices of our collective work are a part of the media conversation because clean, affordable energy and safe, healthy communities are at the heart of racial equity."

(Photo credit: Solutions Project)