Earlier this month, the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy (CEED) together with other member organizations of the Equitable and Just National Climate Forum (EJNCF) took part in a Request for Information (RFI) process on the Inflation Reduction Act and Climate Justice Program. The Equitable and Just National Climate Forum (EJNCF) is a coalition of environmental groups and environmental justice organizations working together to center environmental justice in federal climate policy making.
The newly created $3 billion Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a critical opportunity to protect the fundamental right of all people in America to a clean and healthy environment. The program supports “the health, equity, and resilience of disadvantaged communities” and works to “address past, current, and future environmental climate and justice challenges,” which are shared goals of the Equitable and Just National Climate Forum (EJNCF). In order to ensure these values are the front and center of the program, CEED and EJNCF members developed recommendations to advocate for an equitable and just process to make sure funds are directed to historically disinvested communities. All recommendations submitted as part of this process can better help our communities understand and gain access to much-needed government funds to address environmental injustices like the impacts of a changing climate and legacy pollution.
The design and launch of the ECJ Program creates an indispensable opportunity to reduce and prevent disproportionate pollution burdens in communities of color and low-income communities and to secure the following:
- A healthy climate and air quality for all
- Access to affordable, pollution-free electricity and transportation, clean water, and affordable housing for every community
- An inclusive, just and equitable economy with high-quality jobs
- Safe, healthy communities and infrastructure.
Environmental justice communities–including low-income and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities–have for too long been on the front lines of our nation’s most dangerous environmental and health hazards. Power plants and other industrial facilities are disproportionately sited in communities of color and low income areas, creating air and water pollution that leads to higher rates of cancer, asthma, and other life-threatening health problems. Roads and highways, many of which were intentionally built through communities of color, bring pollution from gas-powered cars and diesel-fueled trucks to surrounding neighborhoods. Environmental justice communities also experience inequitable living conditions tied to chronic disinvestment and structural racism (such as the continued harmful legacy of mortgage redlining practices), including crumbling infrastructure and lack of green spaces and tree canopy, that increase their vulnerability to climate change and limit the resources available to cope with and recover from climate impacts. For example, heat waves are responsible for more deaths every year than any other extreme weather event—with the highest risks in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, where many don’t have access to air conditioning and neighborhoods lack parks, green spaces and tree cover, which help to bring down temperatures.
The equitable implementation of funding streams like the Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) program can help right these wrongs. We must continue to advocate for inclusive federal grant processes that value the diversity of the country we live in and the dire need to take action from plans by communities and for communities. It is vital that community organizations, groups, and other stakeholders from environmental justice communities are included and heard in these RFI processes to inform the creation and allocation of funding for communities on the frontlines of climate injustices.
The following groups are members of the Equitable and Just National Climate Forum (EJNCF):
Center for American Progress
Center for Earth Energy & Democracy
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Environmental Justice for Health Alliance and Chemical Policy Reform
Green Door Initiative
League of Conservation Voters
Los Jardines Institute
Midwest Environmental Justice Network
Natural Resource Defense Council
New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
The Harambee House / Citizens for Environmental Justice
Tishman Environment and Design Center, The New School
Union of Concerned Scientists
WeACT for Environmental Justice
Equitable and Just National Climate Forum (EJNCF) EPA ECJ RFI Response, April 10, 2023
Inflation Reduction Act Environmental and Climate Justice Program – Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed on April 13, 2023.
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