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Press Release: Amir Kirkwood Named CEO of Justice Climate Fund

Jul 10, 2024

Press Release: Amir Kirkwood Named CEO of Justice Climate Fund

Experienced Local Economic Development Leader Will Helm Nonprofit’s Implementation of Clean Communities Investment Accelerator Program

(Washington, DC/July 10, 2024) — The Justice Climate Fund (JCF) Board of Directors today announced Amir Kirkwood as the organization’s new CEO. Bringing more than two decades of experience in local economic development investment, Kirkwood will lead the nonprofit as it implements its Clean Communities Investment Accelerator (CCIA) program, part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) program.

JCF is the first-of-its-kind coalition, with 28 diverse members unified to ensure the most affected communities benefit from the GGRF. By focusing on communities, JCF enables American families, communities and businesses to save money and deliver a greener, cleaner, safer and more inclusive future for all. JCF will rapidly support the meeting of national targets for greenhouse gas reductions, mobilizing private capital to ensure that we build not only enduring capacity for community lenders, but enduring market transformation in and for distressed communities.

“I share in the excitement of JCF’s Board in Amir Kirkwood’s appointment as CEO. This marks a pivotal moment for JCF,” said Lenwood V. Long, Sr., Chair of the JCF Board and CEO of the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs. “His expansive expertise in economic development investment not only aligns perfectly with JCF’s mission and values but also reaffirms his capability to lead impactful change. We trust Amir to steer JCF towards transformative solutions, advancing justice and resilience in the face of climate challenges.”

In April, the EPA selected JCF to receive $940 million through the CCIA program. The JCF CCIA program will provide capital, technical assistance and advocacy to low-income and distressed communities through a unique partnership between the EPA, private investors, community lenders and community-based organizations. JCF will equip Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institution (MDI) banks, CDFI loan funds and other investment vehicles with new skills, tools and relationships to successfully deploy green lending for households and businesses in low-income and disadvantaged communities (LIDACs) across the country.

“I am humbled and excited to work with so many partners to launch this next phase of JCF,” said Kirkwood. “For over 20 years I have been committed to investment in economic development at the community level. Working with the team at JCF, I will bring those experiences to our work of reducing negative environmental effects from neglecting the impacts of climate change in low-income and distressed communities. The ultimate measure of success for JCF will be our ability to design and fund opportunities to generate measurable environmental impacts in communities, return wealth to those communities and share the knowledge gained from those investments.”

Before joining JCF, Kirkwood was President and CEO of Locus, a leading CDFI. His extensive experience includes serving as the Chief Lending and Investment Officer for the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN); First Vice President for Commercial Banking at Amalgamated Bank, where he was also Senior Advisor to the Amalgamated Foundation; Partner at Next Street; and Director in Citigroup’s Municipal Securities Division. While at Citi, and in partnership with OFN and Calvert Impact Capital, Kirkwood helped create the Communities at Work Fund, LP, a national $200 million commitment to finance the general operating needs of CDFIs.

Kirkwood joins a team at JCF that puts communities first, enabling and deploying capital at the most local level — to the community lenders that, for decades, have delivered financial opportunity, security and prosperity to struggling Americans. The JCF network of community lenders pioneered community-based lending. The community lenders in the JCF Coalition serve 281 million Americans — or almost 86% of the country; represent more than 1,000 CDFIs across every state in the nation and multiple territories; and have a depth of experience and engagement in 85% of Justice40 communities, 88% of persistent poverty communities and 58% of Tribal counties.

JCF will build the market by transforming a cadre of new-to-green and new-to-LIDAC community lenders into a network that is uniquely qualified to scale green lending in distressed communities. The JCF model is to collaborate with partners on the ground to design the products and tools that lead to holistic positive outcomes for individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations at the local level. This not only ensures that JCF is a responsible steward of federal support, but also leads the way in attracting private capital that shares the same values and vision.

Also today, the Board expressed deep appreciation for Douglass Sims’s leadership of JCF as its Interim CEO from September 2023 through June 2024. A recognized leader in the field, Sims’s expertise was invaluable in the application and selection phases.

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The Justice Climate Fund (JCF), founded by the Community Builders of Color Coalition, is a purpose-built nonprofit created by experienced mission-driven lenders and climate equity leaders that represent Black, Latino/a, Asian and indigenous organizations. JCF anchors and empowers a diverse coalition of community lenders to more quickly, efficiently and successfully deploy affordable, accessible financial assistance to enable families, communities and businesses in low-income and disadvantaged areas to save money while investing in a greener and safer future. JCF is committed to meeting or exceeding GGRF objectives and to driving responsible, impact-driven finance at scale, nationwide.

Press Contact press@justiceclimatefund.org