Front-Line Communities on Climate Action: First Step is "Stop the Harm"
Thursday, November 11, 2021
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Communities dealing with the impacts of climate change in Washington state are watching legislation in Washington, D.C. closely. People on the front lines of climate change largely are made up of communities of color, lower-income communities and indigenous people.
Deric Gruen, co-executive director of Front and Centered, a coalition of groups in Washington state, said the communities should be considered first as Congress hammers out details on climate action.
"We have to keep up the energy level," Gruen urged. "Keep attention on the communities most impacted as the bellwether and those that are going to be the first and able to judge around what's effective and equitable, and continuing to double down on our intention in our approach to effectiveness."
Gruen argued investments at the community scale, such as in solar projects for low-income communities, are vital for ensuring people on the front lines receive the most benefit from climate action.
The framework for the Build Back Better Act currently includes $550 billion to cut the country's emissions and could be voted on next week.
Gruen stated it is unfortunate the Clean Electricity Payment Program, which would have created incentives for utility companies to transition to clean energy, was cut from the Build Back Better Act. Last week, Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure package.
Gruen is concerned about the heavy emphasis on roads and highways.
"The first step is to stop the harm," Gruen emphasized. "We can't keep investing in things like expanding highways and expect our emissions to go down. We can't be continuing to invest in old infrastructure and buildings that aren't built at the highest performance standards."
Gruen added it is important the transition to a cleaner economy does not happen on the backs of lower-income households.
"We need a transition that's just and really focused on a real hard look at the future ahead and building and investing towards a future that looks different than it is today," Gruen remarked. "And accepting that we're going to have to make some tough choices."
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