Meet the moment, build the future
We are living through an extraordinary moment of interconnected urgency.
Acknowledging this, the Biden-Harris Administration is focused on addressing four related crises: the pandemic, the economy, the climate crisis, and structural racism. On Earth Day 2021, America committed to picking up the pace.
These crises are converging because they are all related. Issues of environmental protection, equity, human health, inclusive governance and prosperity are inextricably interlinked. The crises we now face derive from a set of intersectional preconditions (racism, structural inequality, an extractive economy), and they require integrated, cross-sectoral solutions. Our approach to achieving a climate-safe future must reflect this reality.
Addressing climate change in a way that gets to the root of these interconnected crises will require not only technological innovation, but also innovation and entrepreneurship to reenvision and reshape everything we do – including and especially policy. That’s why we created the Elemental Policy Lab.
We created the Elemental Policy Lab for two reasons.
First, we see entrepreneurs as a key engine for our country’s economic growth in the coming decades. Yet they are often absent from or underrepresented in policy conversations that have the potential to significantly impact the future of their industry. We want to amplify learnings about what successful climate innovation and entrepreneurship looks like, and share ideas for what policymakers can do to support it. We also want to connect entrepreneurs with policymakers who are hungry to know what’s working (or not) on the ground, and help them make policy that is responsive to and supportive of climate x social equity innovation.
Second, we seek to bring the entrepreneurial spirit, the community of practice, our commitment to equity, and the lessons we’ve learned about successful climate and cleantech innovation to bear in the realm of policy. So, we are creating a platform to uplift the voices of extraordinary individuals — policymakers, community activists, up and coming political leaders, and entrepreneurs — who have a clear, innovative policy idea that would benefit from “accelerator” support. Through policy entrepreneurship these Fellows will help us collectively advance climate action, jobs, and justice in the US.
Pioneers with innovation proof-points and insights into policy barriers, who need to engage policymakers.
Legislators and regulators who are ready to advance climate and social justice priorities, and are hungry for ideas with concrete data, multi-stakeholder buy-in, and private sector momentum.
The Elemental Policy Lab
A savvy, nimble collective of policy entrepreneurs who work at the seam of technology and policy. They are designers and implementers who know how to access and navigate local, state, and federal processes and embed reality-based, equity-centered solutions into policies.
Policy Lab Fellows
Our fellows see an opening for policy change, and are audacious enough to do something about it. We provide these policy entrepreneurs with a platform and resources to tackle a discrete challenge, and to translate technology and community insights into actionable solutions for policymakers to scale.
Meet the Fellows
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Catherine is an environmental and climate justice activist who has been drawing attention to the often-overlooked issue of inadequate waste and water sanitation infrastructure in rural communities across the United States for decades. She is currently the Co-Vice-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, the Founding Director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Catherine will focus her work on bringing together Earth and Space Scientists at NASA with elected officials and community leaders from vulnerable communities to develop policy recommendations on sustainable rural wastewater treatment. At least 20% of American households, both rural and urban, use septic systems and those systems are increasingly failing due to extreme weather.
Evan is co-founder and Chair of the Board of Sunrise Movement, the largest youth climate justice organization in the country where he helped to write and advance the Green New Deal. He also is the co-founder and managing director of Our Hawaiʻi, which is building a multi-generational, multiracial, indigenous-led political movement for Hawaiʻi that puts local working families first. At Elemental, Evan will help to advance energy savings for low- and moderate-income families in Hawaiʻi by developing models, tools and campaigns to decarbonize and electrify homes across the state. Monthly electric costs in Hawaiʻi are the fifth highest in the nation, contributing to rapidly accelerating cost of living.
Frances leads Pleiades Strategy, advising mission-oriented organizations on strategy, policy and campaigns. She formerly served as policy advisor to climate investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer and Deputy Director of External Affairs to California Governor Jerry Brown. Frances also serves as a senior advisor to Climate Cabinet Action, which helps local leaders run, win and legislate on the climate crisis. At Elemental she will build on her work supporting rural leadership in the clean energy transformation by developing and implementing customized deployment tools for rural electric cooperatives seeking to lead in an equitable clean energy transition. Rural electric co-ops provide electricity to 42 million people living on more than half of the U.S. landmass including 92% of persistent poverty counties.
Heather McTeer Toney
Heather is the Executive Director of Beyond Petrochemicals, a new campaign that aims to halt the rapid expansion of petrochemical and plastic pollution in the U.S. At the age of 27, Heather was the first African American, first female and youngest mayor of Greenville, Mississippi and has since served in senior leadership positions in government and climate and justice-focused organizations, including as the Southeast Regional Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency and Vice President of Engagement at the Environmental Defense Fund. Heather was an inaugural Elemental Policy Fellow and extends her fellowship to partner with the nonprofit, the African American Mayors Association and Environmental Defense Fund to support the implementation of the Local Climate Action Toolkit – a resource to assist mayors in identifying policy actions, funding opportunities and technology solutions to bring to their communities.
Jameka brings over a decade of experience as a campaigner and legal advocate at the forefront of climate justice. Currently, she leads Green for All's National Campaigns at Dream.org. Previously, she wore many hats in the climate movement at numerous national environmental organizations including the ACLU, League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club. Her work with Elemental will focus on supporting member mayors of the African American Mayors Association in advancing climate projects related to energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation. With billions of dollars in Infrastructure and Inflation Reduction Act funding becoming available, many smaller and underserved communities need support to benefit from this historic climate investment.
Na'im is the Executive Director of Carbon Removal Canada, a policy initiative to scale carbon removal in Canada with a focus on innovation and inclusion. Prior to working in climate, Na'im worked with Last Mile Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to expand access to healthcare products and innovations to underserved communities in Liberia and Malawi. At Elemental he will bring together diverse perspectives from multiple stakeholder groups to develop and advance a shared policy framework for scaling equitable carbon dioxide removal in Canada and beyond. In addition to decarbonizing our economy, carbon removal is critical to drawing down the more than two trillion tons of carbon already released into the atmosphere over the past two centuries.