BY DREW COSTLEY, AP Science Editor
Key members of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council say that a year after the Biden administration’s pledge that 40% of all profits from climate investments go to disenfranchised communities, not enough has been done.
Speaking at a press briefing ahead of the HBCU climate change conference in New Orleans on Tuesday, they said they had secured $14 million from the Bezos Earth Fund for a program called Engage, Enlighten and Empower to hold the Biden administration responsible for carrying out its Justice40 initiative.
President Biden made that commitment in a far-reaching executive order on his first day in office. The initiative was singled out as an unprecedented push to bring environmental justice to communities long plagued by pollution and climate inaction.
The three members of the federal Environmental Justice Council leading the $14 million effort, Beverly Wright, Peggy Shepard and Robert Bullard, worked closely with the administration on Justice40.
But Wright told members of the press that more needed to be done to “turn a novel idea into a project that works”.
The trio combine philanthropic grants from the Bezos Earth Fund, $6 million from Shepard’s WE ACT for Environmental Justice, $4 million from Wright’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and $4 million from the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, to ensuring federal funding for Justice40 “goes where it is intended,” Shepard said.
The effort is expected to “ensure equitable implementation of the Justice40 initiative at the state and local levels and empower local communities to participate in policy-making” that stems from the initiative, according to A press release.
The funds will be used to educate grassroots organizations about the resources available to them through Justice40, inform state and local governments on how the money should be used, and develop a screening tool to determine where Justice40 funds are most needed, a tool that includes racial demographics. . Controversially, a federal screening tool used by the administration does not take into account the racial makeup of communities.
There has been little change on the ground since the Justice40 engagement, as the federal government is still trying to determine which communities need the investment the most. In recommendations to the Biden administration, many prominent environmental justice advocates have pushed for a methodical and intentional process for identifying disadvantaged communities and disbursing funds.
At the briefing, Wright and Bullard said they’ve seen past federal social and infrastructure projects fail to deliver on their promises to disadvantaged communities and don’t want that to happen again.
“There have been a lot of really new approaches to changing the lives of Americans in general that have worked” to benefit only white Americans, Wright said.
Bullard pointed to discrimination in the way flood relief was distributed in Texas, home of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, as an example.
Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.
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