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National Crises Highlight the Need for Climate Solutions Addressing Racial, Economic and Environmental Justice

The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform provides a road map to integrate equity and justice into climate policy
Young activists demanding climate action
Getty
July 22, 2020
Washington, D.C. —

This year’s global pandemic, recession, and national uprising against racist police violence highlight the stark need for the country to address climate change with broad solutions that put racial, economic, and environmental justice at their core, the co-authors of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform said today as they marked the one-year anniversary of the Platform.

For too long, racism and injustice have disproportionately exposed communities of color, tribal communities, and low-income communities to the highest levels of toxic pollution and to harm from climate change. 

As multiple national crises exacerbate these inequities, this national coalition of environmental justice and environmental organizations calls on policy makers and the public to support and advance climate action measures that seek to overcome long-standing injustices while curbing harmful pollution in the communities that bear the greatest burdens. 

Now is the time to right these wrongs and ensure that as we rebound from our present state of emergency, we don’t simply return to the same inequitable systems — instead, we must advance toward a healthier, more just and more prosperous future for all. The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, adopted one year ago this week, lays out a vision for how we can build toward that just, inclusive, and pollution-free economy.

The platform co-authors include 12 environmental justice groups and six national environmental organizations. Over the last year, the platform — which calls for a national climate agenda that fully integrates equity and justice into climate policy — has also been signed by more than 280 environmental justice and environmental organizations across the country. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice reckoning, these cultural, political, and social circumstances highlight the intersections at the heart of the platform. 

Now more than ever, it is clear the country cannot address the climate crisis in a vacuum — it must be tackled comprehensively with solutions that advance racial, economic, and environmental justice, even as they curb carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas pollution driving the climate crisis. 

Since issuing the Equitable and Just National Climate platform in July 2019, the co-authors have advocated for environmental and climate justice by:

  • Providing input to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to inform its landmark report, which puts environmental justice, equity, and reducing pollution in overburdened communities at the center of its proposed solutions to address climate change;

  • Submitting a letter to Congress requesting that COVID-19 relief and recovery plans alleviate public health risks in vulnerable communities and support spending for programs protecting community health, clean water, low-income energy assistance, and reducing pollution;

  • Criticizing efforts by the Trump administration to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, which would largely silence the public and expose disproportionately impacted communities to increased pollution;

  • Meeting with key congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to share the Platform and urge lawmakers to center national climate policies on advancing racial, economic, and environmental justice;

  • And holding a roundtable discussion with media representatives to showcase key goals of the platform. 

To read the Platform, please visit: AJustClimate.org  

Platform co-authors and inaugural signatories

Center for American Progress, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, Center for the Urban Environment, John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, Thomas Edison State University, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, Harambee House/Citizens for Environmental Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Los Jardines Institute, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Midwest Environmental Justice Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, ReGenesis Project, Sierra Club, Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School, Union of Concerned Scientists, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Quotes from platform co-authors

Dr. Ana Baptista, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and the Tishman Environment & Design Center at the New School: “Over the past year we have deepened our commitments to advancing the Just and Equitable National Climate Platform. By centering environmental justice across multiple, intersecting policies, we can ensure a more just climate future. Historically, environmental justice communities have suffered from the devastating effects of cumulative impacts of  environmental and economic  burdens concentrated in communities like those throughout New Jersey. Over the past year we have worked collaboratively on developing aligned and transformative policies that can begin to tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change.”

Dr. Cecilia Martinez, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy: “The success of the Equitable and Just Climate Platform over the last year has been tremendous. As a collective, we have helped to influence the nation’s climate and energy agenda, as well just and equitable recovery. There is much more to do, as we move forward to protect communities and our environment, and we are poised and ready to build a just national and global community. We are dedicated and committed to making this a reality.”

Michelle Martinez, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition: “This has provided the opportunity to hear what other groups are doing and how they are working in alignment with the platform. It is our hope that the platform has tangible results for Environmental Justice Communities in leveraging relationships for building more Just and Equitable Policy outcomes.”

The Honorable Harold Mitchell Jr., ReGenesis Project: “The Foundation of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform was the Historic melody of different ideas, voices, and experiences coming together. Iron sharpening Iron that produced a document that in one year became a guide for Congress, and a Beacon for the highest public officials to declare our platform goals of economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice to improve the public health and well-being of all communities. This is Proof that once you come together and choose Hope, anything is possible for the Future.”

Richard Moore, Los Jardines Institute and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance: “It’s been an extraordinary process of being in the Platform: it’s a process based on our history, where we are, and the potential of where we can go together.”

Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance: “This has been a very rich and rewarding year for EJHA to participate in the Platform process. This process has honestly created a place where legacy communities like those in EJHA see themselves in the centering of the work from that of development to policy formations. For us, this is huge, it provides an honest path forward of a relationship built towards lasting and systemic change our communities can believe in.”

Dr. Nicky Sheats Esq., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and the Center for the Urban Environment of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University: “We are grateful that the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform has been received so well by so many. We also hope that it has been a positive influence on environmental justice and environmental policy discussions across the country.”

Peggy Shepard, WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform foretold the need for collaboration in addressing legacy racial harms; responding to attacks on environmental protections; and achieving our national climate goals when it was launched a year ago. Today, as our nation engages in collective recognition and response to the influence of racism on the policies and practices that impact communities of color, we can look to the platform as a roadmap for collectively furthering the bold and just solutions needed to create healthy communities. I acknowledge this historic moment and look forward to continuing to work with fellow signatories to advance the mission of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform.”

Jumana Vasi, Midwest Environmental Justice Network: “It has been an honor for the Midwest Environmental Justice Network to participate in this historic collaboration with our EJ and environmental colleagues. Frontline communities in the Midwest have been ground zero for water crises of all types: drinking water contamination, pipeline ruptures, flooding, and toxic algal blooms. We have first-hand knowledge of how safe and healthy water supplies are critical for community health and well-being, economic stability, and climate resiliency. It is of utmost importance to our region that the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform identifies water access and affordability as a priority issue. We look forward to aligning local and regional efforts with this national initiative.”

Dr. Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice: “Before environmental justice burst on to the national scene, pollution in Black communities and poor neighborhoods was largely ignored by the media, industry, government, and green groups. The environmental justice framework grew out of grassroots community struggles committed to a simple principle. That principle that ‘all people and communities are entitled to equal protection of environmental, energy, health, employment, education, housing, transportation, and civil rights laws and regulations. The assault on Black America has created a crisis that is fueled by racism, economic greed and reckless disregard for basic civil and human rights. In the current reality that we are facing today it is clear the work of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform over the past year continues to be a step in the right direction in establishing a more just and fair multi-stakeholder space that is built on equity.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club: “The Sierra Club is a founding member of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform because we recognize that the people and communities who are affected first and worst by the climate crisis and environmental injustice should be centered by the climate movement. This is an essential forum for determining the direction of all national climate policy.”

Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice: “In the midst of a public health crisis that has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown lives and a national reckoning on racial injustice, it is clear that any plan to combat the climate crisis must be at its heart about environmental justice for communities of color most impacted by pollution. One year later, the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform provides a path forward to advance the bold and equitable climate solutions we need now more than ever.”

Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters: “In the year since its release, the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform has pushed national policymakers to see climate change solutions and addressing racial, economic and social injustice as inextricably linked,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski. “The vision and goals in the platform center communities of color suffering the devastating impacts of toxic pollution and systemic racism and provide a roadmap that is needed — now more than ever — for how to build a more just and equitable society that leaves no one behind.”

Kenneth Kimmell, Union of Concerned Scientists: “The climate crisis disproportionately affects communities of color, low-income communities and working people. Signing the Equitable and Just Climate Platform last year was one way UCS could pledge to make sure climate solutions take into account long-standing racial and socioeconomic inequities to truly meet the needs of all communities. The  partnerships we’ve built with our seasoned and savvy environmental justice co-authors have brought us greater appreciation for the power and pride of communities fighting for their own survival and our shared humanity.”

Gina McCarthy, Natural Resources Defense Council: “Everyone should be able to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and live free from the terror and turmoil of climate change—not just the powerful and privileged. But for too long low-income communities and communities of color have been denied those basic rights. To ensure a healthier, equitable and just future, we must make racial, economic and environmental justice the essential building blocks of any serious plan for national climate action. That’s exactly what the solutions in this visionary Climate Platform demand.”

John Podesta, Center for American Progress: “One year ago, environmental justice and national environmental groups launched the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform to address the legacy of environmental racism and to advance bold solutions to climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic and the protests following the murder of George Floyd have exposed long standing health, economic, and environmental inequalities. Without immediate action, these inequalities will be intensified by the effects of more extreme weather fueled by climate change. Now is the time for Congress to enact policies that advance economic, racial, and environmental justice, including a COVID-19 recovery plan that addresses the deadly impact of concentrating pollution in communities of color and rebuilds the economy in ways that benefit everyone, not just those at the top.”

To speak with the environmental justice leaders involved in the platform, please contact:

Cross-posted from AJustClimate.org. View the original press release

Contacts

Siham Zniber, Earthjustice

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.