Climate Change and Environmental Racism

Addressing Racism and Labor in the Climate Change Negotiations

MARRAKECH -- The lack of transparency and public participation in the climate negotiations will further worsen conditions for Indigenous Peoples, people of color and workers in the US and US-Mexico border. Speakers from Indigenous Environmental Network, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, CorpWatch and Redefining Progress held a briefing on Tuesday in Marrakech, bringing issues of racial justice and worker's rights to the center of the climate change negotiations.

Climate change is a reality in North America, and those least responsible for creating the problem -- Indigenous Peoples and communities of color, in particular -- will be the hardest hit. They have the least resources to cope with climatic changes -- a direct result of institutional racism in the US. In addition, the legacy of environmental racism in the US and the US-Mexico border has ensured that these communities are also hardest hit by environmental injustices, be they the dumping of nuclear waste, the siting of coal fired power plants and refineries or even the lack of adequate public transporation in communities of color. Various studies have clearly established that race plays a major factor in the siting of polluting industries in the US.

The corporate lobby has been very instrumental in derailing the negotiations on climate change and promising false solutions. "The Bush administration has sold out the interests of indigenous communities and communities of color to the fossil fuel industry that supported his election," said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "We need real solutions that address the root causes of climate change and environmental racism, not corporate solutions like carbon trading that will not do anything to stop greenhouse gases in the US -- a society addicted to fossil fuels," added Goldtooth.

Oil and other fossil fuel corporations are pushing the world to the edge of ecological havoc. At the same time, they continue to relentlessly destroy the health and well being of local communities and ecosystems where profits from oil are to be found- be it in the predominantly African American "Cancer Alley", the Gwich'in natives near the Arctic Refuge or Latinos in Austin, Texas. "Clearly, holding corporations accountable for the central role they play in perpetuating these local injustices as well as contributing to climate change is key to any solution to achieve Climate Justice. The US, which accounts for a quarter of CO2 emissions, must also be held accountable to forging genuine solutions," said Amit Srivastava of CorpWatch.

"For Indigenous People and people of color, climate change is a matter of life and death," said Ansje Miller of Redefining Progress, "Yet, our government turns its back on Americans most vulnerable to climate change by saying that we can't afford to address the problem. The truth is, we can't afford not to."

"Any solution must ensure the need for communities and workers to live in a safe, healthy, and clean environment and requires a just transition to build sustainable jobs and communities. To ensure these rights, we have to build a grassroots movement for Climate Justice that integrally links human rights, environmental justice and labor rights by including communities and workers in articulating the solutions," said Cipriana Jurado of the Southwest Network of Environmental and Economic Justice, who works on the US-Mexico border for the bi-national network.

AMP Section Name:Climate Justice Initiative
  • 100 Climate Justice Initiative

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