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Aug. 23, 2021 by Rebecca Bratspies

Building Environmental Justice in New York City

This blog post is based on my testimony before the New York City Racial Justice Commission, which it tasked with dismantling structural racism in the city’s charter.

This November, New York voters will decide whether to enshrine an explicit environmental right in their state constitution. If adopted, the new section will read, “Every person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” New York would join several other states, as well as the United Nations and roughly 150 countries across the globe, in recognizing a fundamental human right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

We all deserve to live in healthy communities. Yet, the grim reality is that Black communities, communities of color, and low-income communities frequently have to fight tooth-and-nail for these basic human rights. This situation is neither accidental nor inevitable. New York City is a clear example.

The city’s racial segregation was carefully planned. This link takes you to a map of the New York City neighborhoods that were redlined nearly a century ago. It is a map of structural racism — of the deliberate racialized decision to cut Black and brown neighborhoods out of the New Deal and …

Aug. 18, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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The Interdisciplinary Panel on Climate Change report released Aug. 9 declared that evidence is now unequivocal that human activity is driving global warming, and immediate steps must be taken to mitigate profound changes. Karen C. Sokol, professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, says two essential international policies must be taken — ending fossil fuel production and providing communities with the resources to adapt.

Since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its massive report on Aug. 9, the report’s “key takeaways” have been widely covered. One of the scientists who authored the report powerfully distilled its import down to one key takeaway.

"[W]e know enough,” Dr. Joeri Rogelj of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change said. “Let’s get on with working towards addressing this challenge that will define humanity over the next …

Aug. 17, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro, Melissa Lutrell
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The surging COVID-19 delta variant is sending thousands of people to the hospital, killing others, and straining several states' hospital systems to their breaking point. The climate crisis is hurting people, communities and countries as we write this piece, with apocalyptic wildfires, crippling droughts and raging floodwaters. Systemic racism continues unabated, leading to vast economic and environmental injustices. It's beyond time for urgent action, but to get there, the federal government must reform the opaque, biased method it uses to evaluate our nation's public health, economic and environmental protections.

The day President Joe Biden took office, he ordered executive branch agencies to evaluate and reform the regulatory review process to “ensure swift and effective Federal action” to address the urgent problems we currently face. The administration is unlikely to live up to this goal unless the White House addresses …

Aug. 13, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first installment of its latest report assessing the state of scientific knowledge about the climate crisis. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put it in a press release, the report is nothing less than “a code red for humanity.”

“The alarm bells are deafening,” Guterres said, “and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The good news is that the science indicates that there is still time to respond by taking drastic and rapid action to shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and to keep people safe in the face of the dangerous changes in the climate system that have already taken place. That is, we must …

Aug. 12, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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It came as no surprise to environmentalists this week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent climate report paints a stark picture: Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, and the precipice we’re standing on is quickly disintegrating. But there are still plenty of things we can do to battle the climate crisis and adapt to current and future impacts.

Building off the IPCC’s last report in 2013, this assessment brought more than 200 scientists together from around the world to consider all climate research available. The result is the most comprehensive analysis on climate change to date.

Since the last assessment, climate models have become increasingly accurate, making the links between human activity and climate change irrefutable and drawing direct correlations between specific weather events and climate change. 

Other key findings:

  • The last decade was the hottest in 125 …

Aug. 9, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez
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In his first week of office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, "Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," that responds to climate change with an emphasis on environmental justice. Notably, the order creates a government-wide "Justice40 initiative," which sets a goal for disadvantaged communities most impacted by climate change and pollution to receive at least 40 percent of overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy.

In attempts to provide key foundational principles for the initiative, the White House recently released a draft guidance document that details how federal agencies should advance the programs covered by the Justice40 Initiative. While the interim guidance provides some direction for the scope of the initiative, the commitment to direct 40 percent of spending to disadvantaged communities is not so straightforward.

The hope of Justice40 is that frontline communities, the ones most burdened …

Aug. 2, 2021 by M. Isabelle Chaudry
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In February, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, reintroduced the FAIR Act. The legislation would protect workers and consumers by eliminating restrictive "forced arbitration" clauses in employment and consumer contracts. The bill would also allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs if doing so is in their best interests. A companion measure has been introduced in the Senate.

Arbitration — a process where third parties resolve legal disputes out of court — is a standard precondition to most, if not all, nonunion employment and consumer contracts. It's considered "forced" because few consumers and workers are aware that they are agreeing to mandatory arbitration when they sign contracts. In most contracts, arbitration is imposed on a take-it-or-leave-it basis before any dispute even occurs; refusing to sign is rarely a realistic option because other sellers …

July 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a package of four clean energy bills. These bills move the state to the forefront of climate action. They ban new fossil fuel plants and set aggressive targets for the state's two major utilities, requiring emission cuts of 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. This is not only a major step forward for the state; it should also clear the path to closer collaboration among Washington State, Oregon, and California on climate issues.

In signing the bills, Brown observed, "As we have all been experiencing, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is here. In Oregon, and across the West, we are feeling its impacts every day."

The bill setting the state's aggressive targets passed the Oregon Senate on …

July 29, 2021 by Clarissa Libertelli
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At CPR, our Member Scholars are integral to our research and advocacy work, driving our organization to address some of the most pressing issues facing our country. As the climate crisis grows increasingly urgent, it’s no surprise that President Joe Biden has invited four CPR scholars — leaders in climate and energy justice, natural resources, and environmental law — to serve in his administration.

These scholars are on leave from CPR while serving in the administration. Below, we highlight their new appointments and past contributions to CPR.

Shalanda Baker

Shalanda H. Baker, Secretarial Advisor on Equity, and Deputy Director for Energy Justice, U.S. Department of Energy

A leading expert in climate, energy, and justice, Baker is making history as the nation's first-ever deputy director for energy justice at the Energy Department. Her role as deputy director is to ensure that the burdens and benefits of energy projects are equitably …

July 22, 2021 by Joel Mintz
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Recent events have dramatized the urgent need for prompt and bold action to respond to climate change. Raging rivers in Germany and Belgium, unheard of "heat domes" over large sections of North America, and uncontrolled wildfires and flooding around the globe, have made it absolutely clear that humankind must quickly limit the emission of greenhouse gases and adapt to the increasingly calamitous consequences of climate disruption.

In view of this situation, what is and ought to be the substance of environmental leadership? At the outset, it bears mention that no single environmental leader can take on the challenge of climate change alone. What is needed instead is cooperation among many leaders. Leadership must come from a number of places, including governments, private enterprises, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and concerned individuals.

Later this year, the leaders of nearly all nations will …

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