“Equity is hardly mentioned in most urban climate action plans, but a few cities, like Austin, Texas, are leading the charge to center in equity in both the process and content of climate planning.” writes Joan Fitzgerald, professor in the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, for Planetizen.
The racial inequity which began with state-enforced slavery in the United States, continued to be supported by states long after emancipation. Former slaves had to navigate their newly found freedom surrounded by hostile whites. Government and developers spread segregation by conspiring to prevent people of color moving into white neighborhoods, creating ghettoes.
It’s not surprising, then, to discover that these neighborhoods are often where our dirtiest industries located, and therefore are exposed to the highest levels of pollution in the country. A 2018 study in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) concluded that: “Disparities for Blacks are more pronounced than are disparities on the basis of poverty status.” And the congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment report also warned that climate change disproportionately affects these same communities. The report emphasizes the need for government to work closely with communities to develop solutions.
Most climate action plans don’t even mention equity but Austin might just be leading the way. The city’s 1928 master plan zoned minority neighborhoods almost exclusively for industrial use. But their new Community Climate Plan will change that. The guiding principals of the new Plan are focused on racial equality and full participation. The first step that Austin officials took was to enlist the help of a local community human rights activist in the creation of an anti-racism training program for everyone who would be involved in the process of creating the Plan. Then they spent three months finding community members willing to participate. Of the 140 participants, people of color make up more than half. And the city is offering payment and childcare to advisory members to make the process less burdensome for them. Also part of the process are 12 climate ambassadors, locals recruited to gather feedback from their own communities.
As they assess each step of their plan, Austin is using an equity assessment tool to keep the focus on racial equality and to build climate justice into their action plan.
Read the original article here.
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