Climate justice group: California must protect vulnerable communities


Fourteen environmental justice, public health and climate equity organizations are calling on the state of California to make sure its plan for adapting to climate change addresses the needs of frontline communities that suffer first and worst. The Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG), supported by Resources Legacy Fund, released a series of guiding principles and recommendations for funding and policy decisions, along with results of a recent survey of California voters of color indicating that these voters overwhelmingly favor stronger government action to help their communities prepare for climate change impacts.

AB 398, the cap-and- trade extension recently signed by Gov. Brown, designates “climate adaptation and resiliency” as a priority that must receive funding from cap-and- trade revenue. An Assembly Budget Committee hearing Aug. 23 will begin the process of determining how these funds will be spent.

In “Advancing Climate Justice in California,” CJWG emphasizes that frontline communities – including people of color, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those in rural areas and indigenous people – already suffer more from socioeconomic, health, and environmental injustices and have fewer resources to prepare for and recover from environmental impacts caused byclimate change. These communities have been largely excluded from policy and funding decisions and processes.

CJWG recommends that the state do more to include the voices of frontline communities in its planning, and focus both funding and planning on protection of essential facilities that provide health care, food and emergency shelter; bringing economic opportunities into these most vulnerable communities; and avoiding negative consequences such as displacement.
CJWG points to the need for California to assess the vulnerability of its regions, looking at the many factors that could come into play, and use these assessments inform plans to build climate resilience in frontline communities by 2020. In addition, the state should identify and invest at least $1 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2025 to accomplish this climate resilience.
We need more spaces where frontline communities provide a roadmap for what is needed to achieve a sustainable, just and prosperous future. AB 398 left out these voices from the conversation, and, even with a well-intended inclusion of investment, does not assist refinery communities in their ability to adapt. In fact, AB 398 directly preempts local frontline communities from carrying out our pollution prevention plans. More genuine interactions are needed to protect lives, and that is why we are calling on state leaders to center the voices and needs of frontline communities in their climate resilience funding and policy decisions,” said Ernesto Arevalo of Communities for a Better Environment, co-chair of CJWG.

“Environmental justice communities throughout the state bear a disproportionate share of the harmful impacts of longstanding policy priorities and investment practices. The result: unhealthy, unsafe environments that cut short our lives. This is a critical time to confront both challenges and opportunities posed by climate change in a way that prioritizes the needs of communities most often left behind,” said Veronica Garibay of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, co-chair of CJWG.

The survey of 800 California voters of color conducted by EMC Research for Resources Legacy Fund found that two thirds believe that the effects of climate changes have already started, and 85 percent want state and local officials to adopt stronger policies to help their communities prepare for these impacts.

Climate Justice Working Group members include:

•    Amee Raval, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
•    Sarah de Guia, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
•    Caroline Farrell, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment
•    Lucas Zucker, Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
•    Janaki Jagannath, Community Alliance for Agroecology
•    Ernesto Arevalo, Communities for a Better Environment
•    Alvaro Sanchez and Sona Mohnot, Greenlining Institute
•    Eleanor Torres, Incredible Edible Community Garden
•    Veronica Garibay, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
•    Martha Arguello, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles
•    Chione Flegal and Erika Rincon Whitcomb, PolicyLink
•    Ari Neumann, Rural Community Assistance Corporation
•    Gloria Walton, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE)
•    Anya Lawler, Western Center on Law &Poverty


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