Working to solve long-term environmental challenges facing the next generation

Program Mission

Working to solve the long-term environmental challenges that threaten the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

For more than two decades, the Joyce Foundation has been a leading foundation funder of policy work related to the Great Lakes. We are working to address three of the region’s critical long-term environmental challenges: climate change, the safety and accessibility of the water we drink and the health of the Great Lakes.

Climate change is the largest intergenerational environmental threat in our region. Great Lakes states are at a pivotal moment to dramatically reduce the emissions that drive climate change, while also creating economic opportunity and improving people’s health. Moreover, this region emits nearly 20 percent of all US climate pollution, so gains here are essential to national progress.

More than 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, and protecting the Lakes is central to the region’s environmental health, economic vitality, and very identity. In our region, climate change is causing more intense storms and increasing the variability of Great Lakes’ water levels. These patterns increase polluted runoff and stress aging water systems. While all communities face water challenges, the most severe impacts fall on people from communities that have lacked investment because of structural racism or other barriers.

To respond to these challenges, Joyce will support efforts to put Great Lakes states on a path to achieve just, equitable, carbon-free electric power systems by 2040. We will also seek to ensure all people in the Great Lakes region have clean water from lake to tap by supporting policy to address threats, improve infrastructure, and remedy water disparities in communities of color. In all our grants, we will prioritize projects that are guided by the perspectives of people impacted by the environmental issues being addressed.

Strategy

Climate Solutions

Shifting to non-carbon sources of electric power is essential to eliminating global warming pollution – both directly by reducing the burning of fossil fuels in power plants, and indirectly as the transportation, industrial, building heating, and other sectors switch to electricity. There is positive technological, economic, and—in some Great Lakes states—policy momentum behind transitioning to carbon-free electric power. Yet, no states in our region are more than about halfway to achieving complete electric sector decarbonization, and some still get 80 or 90 percent of their electricity from fossil fuels. Joyce will support work on clean energy policy in Great Lakes states to secure long-term commitments to 100 percent carbon-free electricity.

Goal: To put Great Lakes states on a path to achieve just, equitable, carbon-free electric power systems by 2040.

  1. Secure long-term commitments to transition to carbon-free electricity, including states establishing 100 percent carbon-free electricity goals and strategies, and states, utilities and their stakeholders embracing racial equity and energy justice as core elements of decarbonization plans
  2. Achieve full implementation of near-term state energy efficiency and renewable energy policies, with strategies tailored to fit the unique needs and opportunities in each state— focusing mostly on Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, with smaller investments in Ohio and Wisconsin
  3. Support policy innovation to achieve complete, equitable decarbonization, closing the gap between the cumulative reductions that can be driven by the current generation of clean energy policies and 100 percent decarbonization

Great Lakes & Drinking Water

One of every five gallons of fresh water on the surface of the planet is found in the Great Lakes, which provide clean, abundant drinking water for 40 million people in our region. Yet the future health of the lakes is far from assured, given major threats to their physical, chemical, and biological integrity. Public and private decisions made in the next decade will likely determine whether the Great Lakes will be healthy enough to provide for the next generation as they have provided for us.

Protecting the health of our region depends on protecting the health of the Great Lakes and the water systems that serve our communities. The Great Lakes and Drinking Water focus area will accelerate actions to protect the region’s freshwater, upgrade our water infrastructure, and improve access to safe, affordable drinking water. We will pursue two initiatives, with most efforts focused in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Goal: To ensure all people in the Great Lakes region have clean water from lake to tap by supporting policy to address threats, improve infrastructure, and remedy water disparities in communities of color.

  1. To help ensure that the Great Lakes remain healthy enough to provide for the next generation as they have provided for us, we will address major threats to their physical, chemical, and biological integrity, with a focus on efforts to:
    1. Improve water infrastructure performance, management, and funding, with a focus on remedying water system disparities in communities of color
    2. Prevent unsustainable diversions from the Great Lakes by enforcing the Great Lakes Compact
    3. Prevent groundwater depletion (proposals currently by invitation only)
    4. Reduce the risk of oil spills from oil transport by continuing to support closure of the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline
    5. Reduce polluted runoff in rural and urban areas
    6. Prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species
  2. To help make certain that the next generation in our region has access to safe, affordable drinking water, Joyce will support equitable water policy that ensures that water systems and infrastructure provide safe, affordable water services for everyone. We will focus on efforts to develop and support utility, municipal, state, and federal policies that:
    1. Reduce the risk of lead exposure in drinking water
    2. Ensure high quality, affordable water services

Recently In Environment

Policy Watch

Getting the lead out

Illinois lawmakers mandate that utilities replace toxic lead water lines, a decades old threat. New legislation provides for state grants and technical assistance and prioritizes communities at highest risk–Black and Latino.

Policy Watch

Energy efficiency

Under-resourced communities in Minnesota soon will receive a jolt of financial support for energy efficiency, thanks to newly passed legislation to help the state achieve its decarbonization goals equitably.

News

Foundation’s Cisar to advise EPA on water

The Foundation is excited to announce that Elizabeth Cisar, co-director of our Environment program, has been invited to serve for a year as a senior advisor in the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Policy Watch

Keeping out carp

With new funding and approvals, planning and design is moving forward on a long-envisioned, comprehensive project to help block invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Program Staff