Leading Environmental Justice, Climate Justice, Religious and Policy Organizations Unite to Call For Action On Climate Change

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Press Conference with Dr. Beverly Wright, Co-Chair of the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative. January 28, 2002, New York City

 

It gives me great pleasure to represent 28 organizations that came together to form a coalition for Environmental Justice and Climate Change. This is an historic event and marks the first time that so many organizations have coalesced in an effort to give voice to so pressing an issue as climate justice. To this end, we have drafted and adopted a statement of solidarity and a call for action on environmental justice and climate change. The coalition urges President Bush and Congressional leaders to take immediate and just steps on climate change policy. The Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative supports energy efficiency, renewable energy, and conservation policies while seeking equitable measures to protect and assist the communities most affected by climate change.

We have gathered here representing people of color, indigenous peoples, and workers who bear a disproportionate health, social, and economic burden of a society addicted to a fossil fuel economy. As such, they are the first victims of government inaction, corporate abuse, and negligent public policy. In solidarity, we stand together with people who are being affected now by climate change and those who will be affected in the future. We acknowledge that the people most vulnerable are disproportionately people in the global south, poor people, people of color, and indigenous peoples of the global north, including in the United States.

We are in solidarity with workers whose health and safety are compromised by polluting industries, workers whose lives and well being depend on their employment in polluting industries, and workers who will seek new forms of employment as the world transitions from a fossil fuel economy. All workers must be made whole.

We are in solidarity with indigenous peoples who experience the destruction of the global environment as an attack on their spiritual foundations, and with communities everywhere whose lives, homes, and environment.

We acknowledge that climate change is impacting these communities. Moreover, the mechanisms that create climate change are the same ones that have advanced environmental racism in other areas. The struggles of these people, workers, and communities for the environment and for justice must lead the resistance to climate change.

Environmental Justice organizations assert leadership on this issue. We are ready to work collectively with others to demand corporate and government accountability and justice for fence-line communities, frontline workers, the nations of the global south, and the communities of “the south within the north.”

Though most affected, the voices of indigenous peoples, people of color, low-income people, and workers have been ignored to date on this issue. These communities have their own unique concerns and voice that must be included in any policy discussions about climate change.

  • We issue this call to action, to organize, link, and advance this multigenerational struggle for a just transition to a clean and sustainable economy.
  • We seek to ensure an equitable climate policy that generates ample revenue to fund transitional programs and initiatives that assist people most vulnerable.
  • We acknowledge that the U.S. is the major contributor to the problem of human contributed climate change and maintains a unique position as a world leader. The science is clear-negative impacts of global warming will accelerate under present policies. Yet, the U.S. has thus far abdicated a leadership role to the long-term detriment of the entire world.
  • We believe that steps to reduce global warming can and should protect workers, low-income households, communities, and the economy. No policy should be implemented at the expense of countries of the global South or otherwise promote environmental racism. The choice of technologies able to protect the workplace and environment should be available to all.

Speaking as a concerned citizen, mother, and resident of the State of Louisiana, living within the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor better known as "Cancer Alley," I have serious concerns with the posture taken as it relates to Environmental Protection since September 11, 2001. Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that the loosening of environmental regulation actually harms citizens, especially those, like myself, who live very close to large petrochemical processing plants. We are already exposed to large amounts of toxic chemical that affect our health and quality of life. We now live with the additional fear and increased risk of a terrorist attack.

I believe that the homeland will only be safe when we place our energy and resources in the pursuit of a sustainable renewable energy policy and move away from a fossil fuel dependent economy. Because the immediate repercussions to global warming for the indigenous peoples of Alaska, we have drafted and adopted a statement of solidarity and call to action for Alaska.

Contact Info: Dr. Beverly Wright, Director, Xavier University of Louisiana, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, 504.304.3324.

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