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Supporting science-based environmental policy


By Ed Miller, Director, Environment Program

Last week, the Joyce Foundation announced new program strategies for 2018-2020, including changes in the Environment Program that incorporate additional strategies to accelerate the transition to clean energy and to help ensure everyone in our region has safe, affordable drinking water. We’re excited to tell you more about our plans to build on the Foundation’s 40-year history of supporting science-based environmental policy in the Great Lakes region.

We will continue to work on both climate and water issues, but with a broader scope of work in each portfolio. To improve the public policies that are advanced in our region, we will seek opportunities to allow the people most directly impacted by the water and climate issues we are working on to participate in policy discussions on their own terms.

On climate, our region continues to be both an important part of the problem, and a leading region for deployment of climate solutions. On the problem side, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan are among the ten largest power sector emitters of global warming pollution in the US. And, on the solution side, the three biggest state clean energy policy victories of 2016 in the US were all in our region: the passage of landmark new clean energy legislation in Illinois, and Michigan, and the reinstatement of previously frozen clean energy requirements in Ohio. 

Our past grant making helped make these victories possible, and we continue to believe that aggressive development and implementation of state utility policies related to both energy efficiency and renewable energy will be key climate solutions strategies for the Great Lakes region. The next phase of our work will include this work, and add a new strategy: driving decarbonization in the transportation sector.

Last year, for the first time since the early 1970s, total global warming pollution from the transportation sector in the United States was larger than that from the electric power sector. The emergence vehicle electrification and other advanced technologies for passenger and freight vehicles, creates the best opportunity to begin cutting global warming pollution in the transportation sector. Joyce will initiate work to develop policies so our region can capture the both the economic and social benefits of advanced transportation technologies.

In our Climate Solutions program, Joyce will invest a projected $12.4 million over the next three years to support research, policy development, advocacy, and engagement focused on two strategic initiatives:

  • Accelerate adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy through state utility policies; and
  • Develop and secure adoption of local and state policies to capture the benefits of advanced transportation technologies.

One of every five gallons of fresh surface water on the planet is found in the Great Lakes. More than 35 million people in the US and Canada rely on the Great Lakes every day. As the heart of industry for both countries for more than a century, the Great Lakes region suffered serious environmental degradation. Since the late 1970s, the Joyce Foundation has supported the public in calling for stronger environmental protection efforts in the region and large-scale investments like the successful, on-going Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Foundation recognizes that public and private decisions made in the next decade will help determine whether the Great Lakes will be healthy enough to provide for the next generation as they have provided for us. Clean, abundant drinking water is one of the fundamental benefits provided by the Great Lakes. Accordingly, the Foundation has broadened its Great Lakes mission to help ensure that the next generation in our region will have clean water from lake to tap.

We are launching a new initiative to drive policy to ensure Great Lakes residents have affordable, clean drinking water. Since the scope of these issues is so large and this is a new area for Joyce, in the initial phase of this strategy we expect to make a few grants to test approaches and determine where Joyce can be most helpful. We will focus on water system governance and financing issues, and reducing the risks posed by lead contamination in water, particularly where children may be exposed.

In our Great Lakes program, Joyce will invest a projected $12.4 million over the next three years to support research, policy development, advocacy and engagement focused on three strategic initiatives:

  • Address three major threats to the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes: polluted runoff from cities and farms, aquatic invasive species, and surface water diversions;
  • Advance state and federal policies that restore the Great Lakes and improve the region’s water infrastructure systems; and
  • Ensure that everyone has access to clean, affordable drinking water

Across the Environment Program, we will continue to partner with local community leaders, policy makers, advocates, researchers, policy experts and other funders to ensure that our public policies are grounded in the best available evidence and the experiences of those closest to the problem.