BY DREW OSTLEY – AP Science Writer
The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s key members say that despite the Biden Administration’s promise that 40% of climate investment benefits would go to disenfranchised communities one year ago, not enough has been done.
Tuesday’s press briefing was ahead of the HBCU climate change conference in New Orleans. They claimed they had secured $14 million from Bezos Earth Fund. The program is called Engage, Enlighten, Empower. It will hold the Biden administration accountable to its Justice40 initiative.
On his first day in office, President Biden made this commitment in a broad executive order. This initiative has been hailed as an unprecedented push for environmental justice in communities that have been ravaged by climate change and pollution.
Beverly Wright, Peggy Shepard, and Robert Bullard, who are the three federal members of the federal environment justice council that is leading the $14 million-dollar effort to protect the environment, have been closely working with the administration on Justice40.
Wright said to the press that it took more to make a new idea into a successful project.
Shepard explained that the trio combine philanthropic grants from Shepard’s WE ACT for Environmental Justice with $6 million from the Bezos Earth Fund. Wright’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice received $4 million, while the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice received $4 million. This is to ensure federal funding from Justice40 goes where it’s needed.
According to a press release, the effort will ensure that the Justice40 initiative is implemented at both the state and local levels in an equitable manner and that local communities are able to participate in policy-making that results from the initiative.
The funds will be used for education of grassroots organizations about Justice40 resources, to inform state and local governments how the money should use, and to develop a screening tool to identify where Justice40 funds are most needed, which includes racial data. A federal screening tool used to screen applicants for federal funds is controversial because it does not consider the racial makeups of communities.
The Justice40 pledge has seen little impact on the ground, as the federal government still struggles to determine which communities are most in dire need of the investment. Many respected environmental justice advocates advocated for a systematic, deliberate process to identify disadvantaged communities and disburse funds.
Wright and Bullard stated that they have seen federal infrastructure and social programs fail to deliver on their promises to disadvantaged communities in the past and that they don’t want it to happen again.
Wright stated that there are many novel ways to improve the lives of Americans.
Bullard highlighted discrimination in the distribution of flood relief in Texas, where Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice can be found, as an example.
Follow Drew Costley @drewcostley.
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