Harris and Ocasio-Cortez team up on a Climate ‘Equity’ Bill

by Ilana Cohen, Inside Climate News


  • California Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez unveiled an updated version of their Climate Equity Act that was initially released a year ago as Senator Harris was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination
  • The Climate Equity Act would:
    • Create an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability 
    • Require the government to consider the impact of any environmental legislation or regulation on low-income communities by using an equity score created by climate experts and community leaders to assess the equity impacts of new legislation
    • Redirect capital to marginalized communities of color by increasing the diversity of recipients of federal grants and loans in order to make these opportunities more accessible
  • Representative Ocasio-Cortez explains that diversity is needed while creating new policies:

For too long, policies that affect communities of color have been determined by a few white men in a room in Washington… I’m proud to partner with Senator Harris on a bill that will pave the way for a new, inclusionary way of doing things in D.C.”

Senator Kamala Harris is Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s pick for Vice President. Centering equitable climate legislation and policies for California’s frontline communities is one of The Climate Center’s guiding principles

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Unequal impact: The deep links between racism and climate change

by Beth Gardiner, Yale Environment 360


Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance, shares the correlation between the United States’ racist past and the current climate crisis

  • Climate movements typically center around conversation and protecting wildlife while not advocating for the protection of Black and Brown people who are directly impacted by climate change and environmental racism
  • Climate change stems all the way back to colonial times, where indigenous lands were exploited and used for extraction of natural resources in the name of capitalism
  • The treatment of Black and Indigenous people present-day can be compared to the early days of America, where enslaved people were given poor housing and food
  • The communities impacted by COVID are the same ones experiencing pollution, and they will continue to feel the worst effects of the climate crisis
  • Policies, such as the Green New Deal, must include frontline leaders and frontline communities in order to better serve all people
  • A just transition of labor must look at the process and impacts of achieving sustainability to ensure that frontline communities are not experiencing more pollution in pursuit of sustainability

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.

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The Climate Center Stands Against Racism, Police Violence and Environmental Injustice

The Climate Center stands in solidarity with communities of color and with the protesters in the streets. We join them in demanding an end to institutional racism, police violence, white supremacy, and the environmental injustices that many Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous communities experience daily.

Shared responsibility and equitable, inclusive solutions are fundamental values we strive to embody in our efforts to realize speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions.

Our urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice. Read more here.

Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis


There are large disparities in COVID-19 deaths among people who have historically faced environmental justice issues within the US. 

  • African-American communities have historically been disproportionately housed near sources of large pollution, particularly in the South, leading these communities to develop asthma, cancers, and other respiratory problems
  • This life long exposure has lead to more COVID-19 deaths as poor air quality increases fatality from the virus 
  • Health experts particularly worried that overcrowded housing, lack of health insurance, and workplace exposure in jobs like agriculture will cause the number of cases to skyrocket within some latinx communities 
  • Lack of access to safe drinking water and underfunded health care are issues impacting infection rates within the Navajo Nation
  • Political scientist Fatemeh Shafiei, director of environmental studies at Spelman College, has found that low-income residents and people of color are disproportionately exposed to health-threatening environments in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces throughout their lives
  • Eliminating pollution exposure, and ultimately structural inequalities within the country, would dramatically improve the health and safety of these marginalized communities and lower the risk of COVID-related deaths

Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from our fossil fuel economy through proximity to oil and gas wells, oil refineries, major highways, and other industrial areas. The Climate Center works to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for everyone in these communities

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Environmental justice grabs a megaphone in the climate movement

by Phil Mckenna, InsideClimate News

Thenjiwe McHarris of the Movement for Black Lives leaned into the microphone and, with a finger pointed firmly at her audience, delivered a powerful message to the 200,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., for the People’s Climate March.
“There is no climate justice without racial justice,” McHarris boomed as the temperature reached 91 degrees, tying a record for late April. “There is no climate justice without gender justice. There is no climate justice without queer justice.”
For a movement historically led by white males who have rallied around images of endangered polar bears and been more inclined to talk about parts per million than racial discrimination, McHarris’s message was a wake-up call.

“We must respect the leadership of black people, of indigenous people, of people of color and front line communities who are most impacted by climate change,” she said. “This must be a deliberate, strategic choice made as a means to not only end the legacy of injustice in this country, but an effort to protect the Earth.”

From the Native American standoff against a crude oil pipeline at Standing Rock to leadership at this year’s United Nations climate conference by Fiji, a small island nation whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, 2017 was the year the needs of the dispossessed washed like a wave to the forefront of the environmental movement.

The Quinault Indian Nation led a successful fight against a large new oil export terminal in Hoquiam, Washington, where the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a coalition of environmental groups led by the tribe in January.

California will invest $1 billion in rooftop solar on the apartments of low-income renters after Communities for a Better Environment, a group dedicated to reducing pollution in low-income communities and communities of color, pushed for the legislation.

When the EPA tried to delay new regulations against smog, states, public health advocates, environmental organizations and community groups including West Harlem Environmental Action sued, and the EPA withdrew its attempted delay.
At a recent EPA hearing on the Clean Power Plan, nearly a dozen representatives from local NAACP chapters testified on how low-income communities and communities of color would be disproportionately impacted by pollution from coal-fired power plants if the Obama-era policies to reduce power plant emissions were repealed.

Democratic lawmakers introduced new legislation on environmental justice in October that would codify an existing, Clinton-era executive order into law. The bill would add new protections for communities already impacted by pollution by accounting for cumulative emissions from existing facilities when issuing new permits. The bill likely haslittle chance of passing in the current, Republican-led House and Senate, but it could inspire similar action at the state level. One week after the bill was introduced, Virginia established its own environmental justice council charged with advising the governor on policies to limit environmental harm to disadvantaged communities.
“We are at a point where we have crossed the threshold beyond which we can not return to a period where environmental justice is not a part of the conversation,” Patrice Simms, vice president of litigation for the environmental law organization Earthjustice, said.

Driven by pollution concerns, advocates from low-income and minority communities across the country are providing a powerful, new voice on environmental issues.
“I didn’t become an environmentalist because I was worried about global warming [or] because I was concerned about penguins or polar bears,” Sen. Cory Booker, who introduced the recent environmental justice bill, said. “I became an environmentalist because I was living in Newark. I was an activist and concerned about issues of poverty and disadvantage.”

For Native Americans, the need to address environmental justice and threats to tribal sovereignty, are long overdue.

“If this country continues to encroach and continues to threaten our land rights and human rights, something is going to give,” said Dave Archambault, former chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, who led his people in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline. “I can’t tell you what the next fight is going to be, but I know that if this country continues to treat a population the way it has, not just recently but the past 200 years, something has to happen.”