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115+ Groups Unveil 'Transformational' Actions For Next President To Kick Off Climate Justice Agenda

"We demand the next president commits to end fossil fuels, hold polluters accountable, and stand up for climate justice and human rights."

by Jessica Corbett

The national think tank Demos and 115 progressive organizations on Wednesday unveiled the Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform, which urges the next president of the United States to urgently take steps that "address continuing disparities, establish greater accountability for a just transition, and lay groundwork for systemic changes needed to end fossil fuel dependency and build a just and equitable renewable energy future."

The presidential policy agenda, directed at President Donald Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, comes with just over three months left until the November general election and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The United States remains a global hotspot for the crisis, with more than 3.9 million confirmed cases—which is likely far below the number of actual infections—and over 142,000 deaths nationwide.

"In the face of continued crises of police violence, a global pandemic, and economic collapse, one lesson is clear: Black and brown communities are consistently marginalized and subjected to chronic and deadly inequities, so long as they remain excluded from public investment and decision-making power," Demos president K. Sabeel Rahman said in statement Wednesday.

Rahman explained that "the looming climate crisis raises the same stakes. It is Black and brown communities who are already bearing the brunt of the costs of our climate crisis and these are the communities whose voices and needs are consistently ignored."

"Built in deep collaboration with the grassroots movement signatories," he continued, "this Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform provides urgently needed, actionable policies that an administration must implement in order to ensure that we meet the challenge of climate change by dismantling environmental racism, and centering the needs and voices of the communities most affected."

The new platform details possible regulatory rulemakings, executive orders, and other presidential actions that aim to "advance an equitable climate agenda from day one." All of the actions fall into four key categories "that speak to the policy work and movement-building that frontline leaders in the climate movement have developed over many years, as they have forged a clear vision of equitable and resilient social and economic transformation."

  1. Environmental Justice: Protecting frontline communities from continuing harms of fossil fuel, industrial, and built environment pollution.
  2. Just Recovery: Ensuring just and equitable recovery from, and resiliency against, climate disasters.
  3. Climate Equity Accountability: Elevating equity and stakeholder decision-making in federal climate rules and programmatic investments.
  4. Energy Democracy: Remaking the monopoly fossil fuel energy system as a clean, renewably-sourced, and democratically-controlled commons.

The platform's preamble recognizes the related work of some previous proposals—specifically, the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, the Climate Justice Alliance's Just Transition: A Framework for Change, the Indigenous Principles of a Just Transition, the Climate President Action Plan, and "the emerging paradigm of Green New Deal."

The preamble also says:

The promise of climate policy for frontline communities lies in targeted policy design that prioritizes protections, direct emissions reductions, job creation and other economic benefits, and resiliency gains for the most impacted communities, including greater control of decision-making—all of which animates the executive action platform that follows. It also lies in addressing deeply interconnected crises of housing affordability, gentrifying economic development, and financial extraction of labor, community, and natural resources. Those challenges cannot be solved by the executive branch on its own and will require extensive state and local action, major federal legislation in some cases, and massive public investment through appropriations, bonding, and other means.

The platform, said North America director Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, "speaks to the climate movement's commitment to justice and equity. We are holding fast to our demand for the next president to take immediate and transformative action."

"The compound crises of Covid-19, racial injustice, and climate change are being paid for in struggle throughout the lives and livelihoods of Black and Indigenous Peoples, and poor families on every frontline, many of whom are already surviving on mutual aid, and a unified demand that democracy delivers," she said. "From a responsive civil structure and executive, to federal agencies that provide resources and empower the people, we demand the next president commits to end fossil fuels, hold polluters accountable, and stand up for climate justice and human rights."

Specific policy recommendations include directing the Environmental Protection Agency to impose a "No Hotspots Policy" to limit local pollution, establishing a Climate Equity Accountability System based in the Office of Management and Budget, creating a Presidential Commission on Energy Democracy and Renewable Energy Futures, and institutionalizing "strong federal standards and procedural requirements of federal agencies respecting self-determination and consent of tribal nations."

Although he did not name the president, Vijay Das of Greenpeace USA's Climate Leadership Project took aim at Trump's track record on Wednesday.

"People across the country are rising up to confront the interwoven crises of climate change, racial injustice, and Covid-19. They deserve an ally in the White House who is going to fight alongside them in advancing the transformational policies outlined in this platform," Das declared.

"We must not tolerate anyone who will exploit a pandemic to further a racist, pro-polluter agenda, one that bails out oil CEOs and corporate polluters while Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities remain under attack," Das said. "Our next president must reject an economy that profits off destruction in favor of one that puts the people and planet first."

Along with and Greenpeace USA, the initial signatories were Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Democracy Collaborative, GreenFaith, Hip Hop Caucus, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program, Maine People's Alliance, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, MoveOn, National LGBTQ Task Force, New Economy Coalition, New Florida Majority, Oil Change U.S., People's Action, Sunrise Movement, and Working Families Party.

Nearly 100 other groups also endorsed the proposal, including multiple local 350 chapters, Center for International Environmental Law, Climate Hawks Vote, CodePink, Data for Progress, Earth Day Initiative, Friends of the Earth US, Rainforest Action Network, SustainUS, the Climate Mobilization, the Solutions Project, and UPROSE.

"The president has the power to move us forward to a society where we are closer to achieving true environmental and climate justice," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash. "This platform provides a well-researched and legally sound roadmap for some of the Executive Actions that will get us there, and should be implemented as soon as possible."

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer at Common Dreams.

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