Fighting Climate Change Can Also Mean Improving Equity

NPR
Monday, June 21, 2021

Climate Action = Climate Justice, Says SCA SVP

The fight against climate change may be taking a striking new turn under the Biden administration. The White House is calling climate action a form of environmental justice, part of a campaign to address economic and racial inequity.

It’s bringing new attention and, potentially, a flood of cash to low-tech approaches to climate action that directly benefit low-income neighborhoods. They include aid for home renovations and upgrades to city transportation infrastructure, including buses.

Yet this shift in focus has its roots far from Washington, says Matt Gray, formerly chief of sustainability in Cleveland. “What we’re seeing now at a national level has bubbled up from the cities for a good six, seven years,” says Gray, now senior vice president of programs at the Student Conservation Association, which runs environmental volunteer programs. “A lot of cities have come to realize that climate action and climate justice are one and the same.”

Among those cities is Cleveland. A few years ago, it explicitly linked climate policy and social equity. The story of how it developed this new approach helps explain what “climate justice” means in practice.

Gray says he thinks that it offers lessons to other cities — and to the Biden administration.

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