Climate justice is an important aspect of climate change activism. The impacts of climate change are being felt disproportionately in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities in a number of ways, most notably through: The unfair location of pollution-generating fossil fuel power plants that causes adverse health effects in the surrounding neighborhoods and the impacts of climate change–caused extreme weather events (think: Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in the 9th Ward of New Orleans — a majority Black neighborhood). BIPOC communities typically have little political power, allowing the polluting fossil fuel companies to disproportionately place their facilities in these communities.
At the same time, 350 Madison leaders realize that locally, nationally, and globally we only have a short time to take action to reduce human-caused climate change, and we can’t slow down.
350 Madison’s Board of Directors and Coordinating Council are having ongoing discussions on actions we can take as an organization to help achieve climate justice and simultaneously fight to reduce and eliminate human-caused climate change. Toward that end, the Board recently adopted the Jemez Principles for Democratic organizing and the following 10 Principles for Just Climate Change Policies:
- Stop Cooking the Planet: Global climate change will accelerate unless we can slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. To protect vulnerable Americans, we must find alternatives for those human activities that cause global climate change.
- Protect and Empower Vulnerable Individuals and Communities: Low-income workers, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples will suffer the most from climate change’s impact. We need to provide opportunities to adapt and thrive in a changing world.
- Ensure Just Transition for Workers and Communities: No group should have to shoulder the burdens caused by the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy. A just transition would create opportunities for displaced workers and for communities to participate in the new economic order through compensation for job loss, loss of tax base, and other negative effects.
- Require Community Participation: At all levels, people must have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Decision makers must include communities in the policy process. U.S. federal and state governments — recognizing their government-to-government relationship — must work with tribes as well.
- Global Problems Need Global Solutions: The causes and effects of climate change occur around the world. Individuals, communities, and nations must work together cooperatively to stop global climate change.
- The U.S. Must Lead: Countries that contribute the most to global warming should take the lead in solving the problem. The U.S. is four percent of the world’s population but emits 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. All people should have equal rights to the atmosphere.
- Stop Exploration for Fossil Fuels: Presently known fossil fuel reserves will last far into the future. Fossil fuel exploration destroys unique cultures and valuable ecosystems. Exploration should be halted as it is no longer worth the cost. We should instead invest in renewable energy sources.
- Monitor Domestic and International Carbon Markets: We must ensure that carbon emissions and carbon sink markets are transparent and accountable, do not concentrate pollution in vulnerable communities, and avoid activities that harm the environment.
- Caution in the Face of Uncertainty: No amount of action later can make up for lack of action today. Just as we buy insurance to protect against uncertain danger, we must take precautionary measures to minimize harm to the global climate before it occurs.
- Protect Future Generations: The greatest impacts of climate change will come in the future. We should take into account the impacts on future generations in deciding policy today. Our children should have the opportunity for success through the sustainable use of resources.
Other actions the Board is considering include:
- Providing training for leaders and members of 350 Madison on the intersection of climate change, climate justice, and racial justice;
- Reaching out to and working with Black-led organizations to collaborate on our mutual goals;
- Examining our campaign teams to ensure they incorporate climate justice–directed actions that are consistent with the team’s climate change–related goals;
- Examining the complicity of white people in the perpetuation of systemic racism and ways in which white privilege can be leveraged to end it;
- Hosting discussions of topics and videos related to climate and racial justice at our monthly member meetings, and other special meetings.
These are just a few actions that are being considered. If you are interested in joining these discussions as we develop an action plan for doing what we can, please reach out to Tanace Matthiesen at tanace.matthiesen@350Madison.org.