WASHINGTON, D.C. — For decades, Black, brown, Latinx and Indigenous communities have been forced to bear the brunt of pollution, climate impacts, and environmental degradation. Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping tools, which allow researchers and policymakers to analyze patterns of environmental and climate hazards, can be a powerful ally to fight this injustice. Current tools, however, often omit crucial data pertaining to factors like social and economic progress, resilience, and public health — factors that can demonstrate a community’s ability to withstand and respond to the threats of climate change.
A new report released by Dr. Sacoby Wilson and other researchers at the Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health at the University of Maryland, in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, identifies a comprehensive list of indicators that better represent climate equity and climate resilience, which should be included in any new environmental or climate justice mapping tool. The report also included policy recommendations to integrate these mapping tools into decision-making, and help address barriers to climate justice to build healthy, sustainable, and resilient communities.
“Worsening extreme weather events like heatwaves, floods and hurricanes are ravaging already disadvantaged communities,” said Dr. Wilson, director of the Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health and associate professor at the University of Maryland. “Through mapping health, environmental, climate, sociodemographic, and economic data, environmental justice screening and mapping tools can support equitable access to climate solutions by building understanding of where environmental and climate impacts occur. Properly investing in these tools, and using them to drive decision-making, is absolutely crucial if we want to create healthy, resilient, and equitable communities for all — and absolutely crucial if we are to meet the goals of the Justice40 Initiative”
This report comes as pressure mounts for the White House to advance a critical climate and economic justice screening tool, which is expected to be released this year as a part of the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative.
“When it comes to confronting the climate crisis, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities are overburdened and underserved and that is fundamentally unjust,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. “Developing these vital screening and mapping tools and implementing them into state action plans and federal legislation will help give frontline and fenceline communities fair and equitable access to basic human rights like clean air and clean water and the resources they need to move from surviving to thriving.”
The report laid out gaps in existing environmental justice mapping tools and proposed indicators to better measure socioeconomic equity and progress, such as increases in the local minimum wage, and advancement of green businesses or businesses owned by people of color. It also included specific policy recommendations for federal and state decision-makers, to ensure geospatial tools are widely available, commonly used, and highly relevant and to operationalize climate equity and social progress into programs and policies. The recommendations include:
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