Throughout history, climate change has adversely impacted low-income communities, which have become particularly vulnerable to flooding, high carbon emissions and co-pollutants. These events have led to displacement and high levels of cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) was established in 1994 to respond to the disproportional burdens facing people of color and low-income residents in environmentally distressed communities.
At a time when urban centers are depressed with job loss, aging infrastructure and numerous abandoned properties, DWEJ is on the cutting edge of finding unique solutions that integrate environmental justice, city revitalization and economic development.
Over the past several months, DWEJ and other environmental justice advocates have worked closely on the federal climate legislation – H.R. 2454 (American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) and S.1733 (Clean Energy Jobs and America Power Act) to ensure that stringent measures are adopted to closely monitor and regulate cap and trade, significantly increase green job opportunities for historically under-represented communities, and substantially curtail carbon emissions in low-income communities.
The passage of a climate justice energy bill is critically important because it will strengthen the United States position of negotiation in future Conference of Parties (COP) climate negotiations.
We must have a strong focus on substantially reducing green house gasses, carbon dioxide, providing financial support for adaptation and technology transfer for developing countries and small island states.
Thousands of people descended upon Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 7-18, ranging from world presidents to foreign ministers, to party leaders to non-government organizations (NGO’s) to business groups, in anticipation of a climate agreement being reached. This Climate Conference (COP15) was considered the largest ever, drawing over 40,000 people. Indeed, it was considered a who’s who of who’s who premier functions.
There were 192 nations and over 110 heads of state in attendance. What a perfect and unique opportunity to develop a binding agreement that would immediately develop and enforce short- and long-term goals for reducing green house gasses. All of the necessary players were represented. The stage was set.
As DWEJ has played an active role in proposing amendments to the federal energy legislation, we were very excited to join with other environmental justice advocates to participate in the Climate Conference for the duration.
This experience enabled us to meet with key stakeholders to express our concerns and share our recommendations about reducing global warming and addressing its adverse impact on vulnerable communities, nationally and internationally.
DWEJ met with several world government leaders, particularly African countries, to build a consensus on establishing a meaningful treaty during the conference.
We were particularly focused on ensuring that the global temperature should be closer to 1.5 Celsius, which will ease the devastation of global warming and agricultural development in particular. We are also concerned that developed countries, particularly the United States and China, have not made more aggressive commitments to reducing carbon emissions in the short term.
Reportedly, the United States and China are the two top carbon emitters. Recently, China surpassed the U.S. Together, they account for over 40 percent of carbon emissions. We shared these concerns with the White House, as well as the EPA, during the Copenhagen Conference.
In order to create a meaningful binding international treaty that is advantageous for developed countries, developing countries and small island states, there must be a more concerted effort from the United States, China, Brazil and India to appoint advisors with a vested interest in promoting environmental justice.
This is fundamentally important if we are going to reduce the adverse effects of climate change on national and international vulnerable communities.
Additionally, it is our fervent desire that developed countries will engage in more strategic conversations with non-government organizations (NGO’s) and other stakeholders who endeavor to achieve a strong semblance of environmental justice.