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PRESS RELEASE

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

Washington, DC -- In response the Biden-Harris administration announcing a series of initiatives that would create a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, launching a whole-of-government approach to cleaning up communities disproportionately affected by pollution, and directing agencies to ensure that 40% of climate investment benefits are targeted to communities of color and other disadvantaged communities, the co-authors of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform released the following statements:

Dr. Ana Baptista, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and the Tishman Environment & Design Center at the New School: “This is a critical moment for environmental justice communities in New Jersey and across the country, as we are experiencing the worst outcomes of both cumulative pollution and the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden administration’s commitment today to embed environmental justice priorities more deeply into their decision-making – and to invest in communities overburdened by pollution – is a step in the right direction. New Jersey has taken a bold step towards environmental justice with its recently passed EJ legislation and now we are looking forward to similar ambitious action from the federal government.”

Dr. Mildred McClain, The Harambee House/ Citizens for Environmental Justice:“For too long, the people of Georgia have been battling environmental racism in the form of deadly pollution in our air, our water, and our bodies. This is especially true for the African American communities who call the port of Savannah home. Today, President Biden took a step in addressing this injustice by strengthening his administration’s commitment to including environmental justice voices in decision-making and to investing in our communities.”

Michele Roberts, Environmental Justice Health Alliance: “President Biden’s announcement today is crucial for communities in his home state of Delaware facing the deadly impacts of cumulative pollution, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. His commitment to including environmental justice voices in his administration, through the creation of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the Environmental Justice Interagency Council, is a step towards giving communities like ours a much-needed seat at the table. We are so very excited that the Biden-Harris plan genuinely reflects the will and needs of the people. Now, we the people look forward to working with the Biden administration in holding them accountable to accomplish a pollution-free future that leaves not one community behind.”

Peggy Shepard, WEACT for Environmental Justice: “It is a well-documented fact that the climate crisis is most deeply felt in environmental justice communities – places where people of color and those of low-income reside. We need bold actions and comprehensive plans that will address the legacy of environmental harms that persist where we live, play, and work and that contribute to poor health outcomes, economic instability, and climate fragility. This is our time to act and the climate executive orders that President Biden signed today are a significant step for responding to the ambivalence and structural racism that is prolonging the climate crisis.”

Jumana Vasi, Midwest Environmental Justice Network: The Midwest is a hub for resource extraction and industrial processes. Our Environmental Justice groups have been working for decades to protect local water resources and sacred lands; address the flooding that damages homes, businesses, and farms; and ensure safe and clean air, water, and soil for urban and rural residents. Ongoing systemic racism, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic magnify these environmental challenges. The Biden administration’s commitment to direct 40% of climate investment benefits to aid Environmental Justice communities will move us closer to a climate future that benefits all people and all places. Such long-overdue support for frontline communities will support the equitable application of environmental protections and the elevation of locally-led climate solutions to bring meaningful economic, social, and health benefits to our region.

Mitchell Bernard, President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council:“For far too long, the low-income communities and people of color who’ve done the least to contribute to the climate crisis have been the very ones suffering the most. That’s environmental racism, and it’s why Biden’s climate action plan puts environmental justice and equity front and center. Importantly, this plan includes direct, substantial clean energy investments to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, delivering both health benefits and job opportunities to the people on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Ramon Cruz, President of the Sierra Club: “We won’t slow the progress of the climate crisis until we address the racism of the systems that allow low income communities and communities of color to be targeted as dumping grounds for pollution. These executive orders from President Biden will begin to repair some of the harm done by our extractive economy, and ensure that communities impacted by pollution have a voice in the process of repairing that harm.”

Abigail Dillen, President of Earthjustice: “President Biden is pursuing the most ambitious climate and environmental justice agenda in U.S. history, and he has hit the ground running. Today’s executive actions are critical first steps to address our country’s long history of environmental racism by investing in communities that have been disproportionately burdened by pollution. We are encouraged by the Biden administration’s commitment to partner with frontline communities and center equity and justice in decision-making. This is the kind of leadership we need to solve the climate crisis and advance environmental justice for all communities.”

Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters: “This is the single biggest day for climate action in more than a decade, and what makes it all the better is that President Biden and Vice President Harris are just getting started! We’re thrilled that this administration is taking a whole of government approach that puts bold climate action, clean energy, and environmental justice at the heart of their domestic and foreign policy agenda. Today’s actions help deliver on their historic commitments to set our country on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2035, protect 30 percent of our lands and ocean by 2030 and stop reckless giveaways of those lands to oil and gas CEOs, address environmental injustice, ensure that 40 percent of all investments are directed to frontline communities and communities of color, create high-quality jobs, restore the role of science in decision-making and more.”

John Podesta, Center for American Progress:“The COVID-19 pandemic, the movement for Black lives and protests against racial injustice, and the ongoing economic crises have exposed inequalities in our healthcare, economy, and environment that have been allowed to persist for far too long. Unless we act now, these symptoms of systemic racism will be worsened by our climate crisis. Today’s Executive Order from President Biden puts America on the path towards addressing the pollution that has been unjustly concentrated in communities of color and rebuilding our economy by creating new good-paying union jobs, addressing income inequality, and ensuring all communities have access to economic opportunities.”

Dr. Kathleen Rest, Executive director at the Union of Concerned Scientists: “President Biden has given every federal agency marching orders to center their decisions on equity and justice. This decision is groundbreaking and will help correct the disproportionate harms the fossil fuel economy has inflicted on marginalized communities, as well as the disproportionate harms from climate change that they suffer. The decision to target future federal investments to struggling communities is the right thing to do, and long overdue. When realized, those investments should help improve public health in these communities while creating new economic opportunities.”

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

For more information, please contact Ari Drennen at adrennen@americanprogress.org or Jake Thompson at jthompson@nrdc.org.