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April 14, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Allison Stevens

Advocates, Scholars of Color Call for Bold Action to End Environmental Racism

Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.

“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration. 

Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.

The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate action at an upcoming environmental summit in honor of Earth Day. 

At the heart of the conversation was a provision in a recent executive order to direct 40 percent of benefits of certain federal environmental investments to disadvantaged communities. The provision — known as the Justice40 Initiative — also calls for the development of an …

April 5, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in a lawsuit against the oil industry. New York City had sued oil companies for harms relating to climate change. The appeals court ordered the case dismissed, on the ground that any harm relating to fossil fuels is exclusively regulated by the Clean Air Act. The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs in similar cases, though how much of a setback remains to be seen.

The court's analysis is complicated and involves some fairly esoteric legal arguments. I'll try to avoid the fine points. In the end, the court's argument comes down to two points. The first point relates to fuels used in the United States. The court argues that by authorizing EPA to regulate carbon emissions, the Clean Air Act indirectly eliminates …

March 31, 2021 by Maxine Burkett, Minor Sinclair
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Maxine Burkett

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. 

This week, CPR’s Executive Director, Minor Sinclair, spoke with Member Scholar Maxine Burkett, professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Burkett has written extensively in diverse areas of climate law with a particular focus on climate justice, exploring the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Their conversation explored the roots of climate justice and its connections to present day climate action. 

MS: Natural disasters can be discriminatory for a host of reasons, and climate change is part of that. Why are certain communities more vulnerable …

March 22, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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Kamala Harris. Janet Yellen. Deb Haaland. Gina Raimondo. Marcia Fudge. Jennifer Granholm. 

They’re making history as members of the largest group of women ever to serve on a presidential Cabinet. Haaland and Yellen are the first women in their positions, and Haaland is also the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

President Biden has appointed five additional women to Cabinet-level positions, including Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Isabel Guzman as Small Business Administrator. Four of these five are Black, Asian American, or Latina. In total, women comprise nearly half of Biden’s Cabinet.

Women have been fighting for equality in this country for over a century — from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, to the Women’s Strike of 1970, to the Women’s March in 2017. For women who are Black American, Asian American, or Native American, the fight has …

March 19, 2021 by Sarah Krakoff, Maggie Dewane
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Sarah Krakoff

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. This week, we spoke with Sarah Krakoff, professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an expert on Native American law, public lands and natural resources law, and environmental justice.

CPR: What motivated you to become an ally to Native Americans and equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration? 

SK: My commitment grew out of anti-poverty and civil rights work I did while in law school, which included a very cursory introduction to the unique status and rights of Native nations. But my understanding …

Feb. 19, 2021 by Maggie Dewane
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Intersectional environmentalism is a relatively new phrase that refers to a more inclusive form of environmentalism, one that ties anti-racist principles into sectors that have long profited from overlooking or ignoring historically disenfranchised populations. 

According to youth activist Leah Thomas, “It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”

Nearly 20 years ago, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) was founded on a vision that government could be reimagined and reformed so that it serves all people — regardless of income, background, race, or religion — and our planet. Intersectional environmentalism is that vision: thriving communities on a resilient planet. 

It is also the theme of CPR’s recent Climate, Energy, Justice video series and corresponding report. CPR takes issue with a business-as-usual approach to …

Feb. 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber originally wrote this commentary for The Appeal.

Introduction

Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 was the largest civil settlement in the nation’s history and a transformative moment in the industry’s control. The accord reached by 46 states, five United States territories, and the District of Columbia required tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars annually in compensation for the public health crisis their products had created.

Today, an even bigger crisis looms, with increasing demands for accountability. Over a dozen federal cases have now been filed against oil companies, seeking damages for their role in causing climate change. With one exception, the cases have been brought by states or local governments that claim they and their citizens are suffering harm from climate change. (The exception is a case brought by Pacific Coast fishing companies for harm …

Jan. 11, 2021 by Shalanda H. Baker, Alice Kaswan
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The Black Lives Matter movement highlights long-standing inequities and amplifies the drumbeat for climate justice and an equitable transition to a clean economy. With the incoming Biden-Harris administration and a growing list of environmental justice advocates at the helm, it's time to move from rhetoric to reality. We offer concrete proposals to turn climate justice goals into climate justice policies.

The call for climate justice has multiple dimensions, from ensuring an equitable transition to clean energy for vulnerable communities and workers disrupted by the move away from fossil fuels, to extending the benefits of our economy-wide shift to those who have historically been left behind. Even more than past environmental challenges, decarbonizing will not be a narrow, technical undertaking. We need a holistic, justice-centered perspective to shape our vision for a green economy and meet the pervasive environmental and …

Nov. 20, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Without a Democratic majority in the Senate, President Biden will have to rely on administrative action to do the heavy lifting. It's clear that EPA has a central role to play in climate policy, but EPA does not stand alone. Other agencies also have important roles to play. Fortunately, the Biden transition team seems to have come to this realization.

A multi-agency approach is especially important because bold actions by EPA will face a skeptical audience in the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. Thus, a diverse portfolio with many different actions from many agencies is prudent. Moreover, EPA is much more in the political spotlight, so any bold action on its part is sure to be met with a political firestorm. Other agencies may fly more under the radar.

The final reason for multi-agency action is that …

Sept. 22, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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With Sen. Mitt Romney’s announcement this morning that he would support consideration of a nominee before the election, it now seems virtually certain that President Trump will be able to appoint a sixth conservative justice. How will that affect future climate policy? Here is a preliminary threat assessment.

The answer varies, depending on what policies we’re talking about. Overall, the implications of a 6-3 Court are bad. But they’re probably not as dire for environmental law as for other issues like racial equality or reproductive rights.

As a quick preliminary take on this, I’ll sort heightened legal risks of climate actions into high, medium, low, and wildcard. The wildcard risks actually worry me the most.

High Risk

Innovative regulations like Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Regulations by EPA that use existing statutory …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 3, 2021

This Labor Day, Let’s Protect Workers from Extreme Heat

Sept. 2, 2021

The Hill Op-Ed: A Legal Pillar of Environmental Justice Is Now Under Attack

Aug. 13, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: The Policy Significance of the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act

Aug. 12, 2021

Following the Most Recent UN Climate Change Report, Here Are Some Policies to Move Us Forward

July 15, 2021

Georgia's Activists of Color Offer Hope for Meaningful Action on Climate Justice

July 2, 2021

Declaring Our Independence from Fossil Fuels

June 8, 2021

Waiting for a Reckoning: Reflections on World Oceans Day, the BP Oil Spill, and Worker Safety