The Biden-Harris administration has put an unprecedented focus on environmental justice by directing all federal agencies to improve justice and strive to end environmental racism, by initiating Justice40 to invest in disadvantaged communities and by establishing the first White House environmental justice panel to advise the administration on delivering cleaner air, a safer environment, and climate action for everyone, especially low-income communities of color — but its work is not finished, the co-authors of the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform said today, in marking its two-year anniversary.
The Platform co-authors highlighted those environmental justice gains made this year by the Biden-Harris administration and by Congress, which includes passing a recovery bill with new funding for environmental justice programs.
They also listed urgent needs still to be addressed this year in federal action on recovery, jobs, climate and infrastructure legislation, and to fulfill administrative measures initiated by the Biden-Harris administration.
With their two-year anniversary on July 17, the platform co-authors issued this joint statement:
“The Biden-Harris administration, along with some members of Congress, has acted swiftly to begin addressing environmental justice, systemic racism, and inequality. Solid progress has occurred amid multiple crises — a deadly global pandemic, a recession, and a national uprising against police violence. The trio of intersecting crises highlight the need for broad, comprehensive action that weds an equitable recovery with justice and climate action. That has begun to emerge from the administration’s moves to center equity in its government-wide climate action agenda and in the Congress-approved recovery plan that invests in environmental justice communities.
“But the work is not done. Still ahead, Congress must work with the administration to make bold investments to further reduce environmental injustice. That includes advancing Justice40 to create jobs, healthier lives, and provide pollution-free energy in disadvantaged communities. It means improving equity across all federal policies. And it means working to reduce pollution and climate damages in communities that for too long have been forced to breathe dirty air, drink unsafe water, and endure health and economic hardship.”
The Platform co-authors cited some important gains made this year, including.
- Justice40: The Biden-Harris administration committed to delivering 40% of climate, clean energy, and relevant infrastructure investment benefits to disadvantaged communities. President Biden’s executive order 14008 on climate change established this goal, and the infrastructure within the executive branch to implement it.
- Climate EO: President Biden issued Executive Order 14008 to address climate change at home and abroad, which committed to centering environmental justice in the federal climate agenda. The order states: Agencies shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related, and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts.”
- New White House environmental justice advisors: The administration created a new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) to advise federal agencies and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality on increasing federal efforts to address environmental justice. Biden appointed 26 members from around the country to the WHEJAC, including six individuals who are co-authors of the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform.
- Interagency environmental justice group. The administration created a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council whose mission is to develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice.
- Congress approved the American Rescue Plan. It includes significant investments for environmental justice programs. Among them are $50 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to address disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks in underserved communities.
The Equitable & Just National Climate Platform co-authors called on Congress and the administration to complete key climate and environmental justice initiatives, including:
- The White House must issue guidance to the federal agencies on Justice40 implementation.
- The administration has committed to but not yet released a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and
updating existing tools to facilitate and coordinate environmental justice activities across federal agencies and
to identify disadvantaged communities.
- Federal agencies have yet to fully implement the initiative’s requirements.
- Federal agencies also have yet to complete state-level implementation of the Justice40 goals.
- The administration is working on a Justice40 scorecard to track performance toward the Justice40 goals.
- Pass the American Jobs Plan. Congress should pass it in full or key elements that include
priority environmental justice, climate, and energy investments.
- Strengthen Executive Order 12898: The 1994 order aims to address environmental justice, and to
promote nondiscrimination in federal programs that impact health and the environment.
- Cut pollution: Congress and the administration should enact policies that reduce pollution in
low-income, Tribal, and communities of color.
- Infrastructure spending: Congress should prioritize infrastructure bill funding for
revitalization of and investment in environmental justice and other disadvantaged communities, including to clean up
“legacy” pollution, build climate-resilient affordable housing, and provide access to safe drinking water and
pollution-free energy and transportation.
Two years ago, signatories to the platform achieved consensus on a historic plan calling for national climate action that confronts racial, economic, and environmental injustice as it enacts deep cuts in climate pollution and accelerates a pollution-free energy future that benefits all communities. The co-authors included leaders from a dozen environmental justice organizations and six national environmental groups.
They committed to work for solutions to address the legacy of pollution; to make justice and equity a federal priority; to reduce greenhouse gas pollution; to transition to a clean energy future; to reduce transportation pollution to rebuild infrastructure and housing; and to demand a just national climate agenda that aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. More on the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform.
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.