For more than 25 years, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice has provided research and education that builds the capacities of African American communities who are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and the climate crisis to engage in policy and system change. We provide specialized skills training for men and women to become certified experts on environmental, health and safety and start new careers with an 85 percent job placement rate. We also provide opportunities for HBCU students to increase their knowledge and contribute to climate change research and solutions. One of these opportunities, I’d like briefly announce, is the upcoming 7th Annual HBCU Climate Change Conference that is hosted by the HBCU Climate Change Consortium and will take place at the New Orleans Marriott, November 13th through 16th. When staff from the City of New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans Foundation asked the Center to partner with them in a project that ties together action to achieve equity with action on climate change I said, "You can count on us!" The Climate Action Equity Project has been a rewarding partnership.
The Center built the engine for the project, which is a collaboration that brings together community leaders working to achieve equity and local residents with expertise in areas relevant to climate action. The Center reached out to community-based organizations in each council district to nominate people to serve on the Advisory Group. The organizations nominated incredible community leaders who they know to be responsible and committed to improving our city. Also serving on the Advisory Group are local residents, who are innovating their diverse fields of expertise in energy, transportation, waste reduction, as well as workforce and entrepreneurial development. Since March 2018, the Center facilitated the work of the Advisory Group to identify the inequities people face in our city every day and develop steps for overcoming them that also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to the climate crisis. In October 2018, we held seven community forums to introduce more residents to the concept of equitable climate action and received their recommendations.
Today, the Advisory Group, the City of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Center offer something of vital importance to our city, which is entitled Taking Steps Together on Equity & Climate Change: A Report by and for New Orleanians. In this report, which is co-authored by the Center, we present the treasure trove of recommendations developed by the Advisory Group and provided by residents at the community forums. These recommendations are not pie-in-the-sky. They are practical and actionable for addressing the needs we have in our neighborhoods for achieving equity and in our city for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each recommendation requires partnerships and collaborations with key stakeholders across the city. In short, achieving equity and taking responsible action on climate change require all of us to work together.
When you think of climate change you may not think of a community-based organization or a job developer as having solutions. But, they do. In fact, we all do. Take for example, the inequities we have in the city with low-income households struggling to pay electric bills that are the second highest energy cost burden in the nation, as well as significant unemployment and underemployment among African Americans. In the report, we provide recommendations from community-based organizations and job developers to bring bills down and grow jobs and small businesses through policies and initiatives that expand home weatherization and energy efficiency programs as well as invest in community solar projects in neighborhoods where both renters and homeowners can benefit.
Click on the link to view the report and think of at least one step you can take for equitable climate action in New Orleans. Climate Action Equity Report.