Climate: Communities of Color


How the Biden Plan Benefits Communities of Color

While everyone is already feeling the effects of climate change, the impacts – on health, economics, and overall quality of life – are far more acute on communities of color, tribal lands, and low-income communities. “Climate change does not affect everyone equally in the United States,” according to Rachel Morello-Frosch, lead author of The Climate Gap. “People of color and the poor will be hurt the most – unless elected officials and other policymakers intervene.”

We cannot turn a blind eye to the way in which environmental burdens and benefits have been and will continue to be distributed unevenly along racial and socioeconomic lines – not just with respect to climate change, but also pollution of our air, water, and land. The evidence of these disproportionate harms is clear. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, African Americans are almost 3 times more likely to die from asthma related causes than their white counterparts. And, nearly 1 in 2 of Latinos in the US live in counties where the air doesn’t meet EPA public health standards for smog according to Green Latinos. And, according to the U.S. Federal Government, 40% of the 567 federally recognized tribes in U.S. live in Alaska where the rapid pace of rising temperatures and melting sea ice and glaciers threaten the critical infrastructure and traditional livelihoods in the state.

As President, Biden will reinstate federal protections, rolled back by the Trump Administration, that were designed to protect these communities. He will make it a priority for all agencies to engage in community-driven approaches to develop solutions for environmental injustices affecting communities of color, low-income, and indigenous communities.

And, this is just the beginning. Communities of color are at the center of impacts of climate change and pollution, and they must be at the center of any solutions. Working with them, Joe Biden is committed to ensuring they are a partner as we work to turn the tide and invest in our collective future.

Biden is committed to:

Ensure that clean economy jobs are good jobs. We must ensure jobs created as part of the clean energy revolution offer good wages, benefits, and worker protections. To this end, President Biden will defend workers’ rights to form unions and collectively bargain in these emerging and growing industries; pursue new partnerships with community colleges, unions, and the private sector to develop programs to train all of America’s workforce to tap into the growing clean energy economy. Moreover, Biden will incorporate skills training into infrastructure investment planning by engaging state and local communities and reinvigorate and repurpose AmeriCorps for sustainability so that every American can participate in the clean energy economy. These efforts will be worker-centered and driven in collaboration with the communities they will affect.

Ensure that communities harmed by climate change and pollution are the first to benefit from the Clean Economy Revolution. Currently, low-income communities and communities of color don’t equally share in the benefits of well-paying job opportunities that result from our clean energy economy. For example, African Americans hold only 1% of energy jobs. As President, Biden will make sure these communities receive preference in competitive grant programs in the transition to a  Clean Economy Revolution.

Hold polluters accountable. Under the Trump Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has referred the fewest number of criminal anti-pollution cases to the Justice Department in 30 years. Allowing corporations to continue to pollute – affecting the health and safety of both their workers and surrounding communities – without consequences perpetuates an egregious abuse of power. Biden will direct the EPA and the Justice Department to pursue these cases to the fullest extent permitted by law and, when needed, seek additional legislation as needed to hold corporate executives personally accountable – including jail time where merited.

Use the full authority of the executive branch to significantly reduce emissions. Studies have shown that flaring, venting and leaking of methane and natural gas causes increased risks of asthma, respiratory infections, cancer and neurological damage. And communities of color are disproportionately affected by these toxins. That is why Biden will require aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act.

Ensure access to safe drinking water for all communities. Communities across America are experiencing a water crisis, including lack of water infrastructure, contamination, accessibility and so much more. Here in the U.S., from rural areas to cities, from Flint, Michigan to Merrimack, New Hampshire to Martin County, Kentucky, many Americans cannot safely drink their tap water. In much of the southwest and west, the lack of sufficient water is expected to exacerbate with a changing climate. Biden will make water infrastructure a top priority by establishing systems to monitor lead and other contaminants in our water supply and take necessary action to eliminate health risks and by supporting communities in upgrading their systems.

Protect America’s natural treasures. He will permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

Improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. Building on his efforts in the Recovery Act, Biden will set a target of reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock 50% by 2035, creating incentives for deep retrofits that combine appliance electrification, efficiency, and on-site clean power generation. He will direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make housing for low-income communities more efficient and will direct the U.S. Department of Energy to redouble efforts to accelerate new efficiency standards for household appliances and equipment. Additionally, he will repair and accelerate the building code process and create a new funding mechanism for states and cities to adopt strict building codes and train builders and inspectors.

Empower local communities to develop transportation solutions. Communities across the country are experiencing a growing need for alternative and cleaner transportation options, including transit, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfares, and first- and last-mile connections. The Biden Administration will transform the way we fund local transportation, giving state and local governments, with input from community stakeholders, more flexibility to use any new transportation funds to build safer, cleaner, and more accessible transportation ecosystem.

Mitigate the climate impact of urban sprawl. Housing policy can be used as a tool to battle climate change and expand the middle class. Many lower- and middle-income Americans are forced to live far away from job centers due to high housing costs, leading not only to workers being overburdened by long commutes, but also to higher emissions associated with increased traffic and extra-long commuting times. Altering local regulations to eliminate sprawl and allow for denser, more affordable housing near public transit would cut commute times for many of the country’s workers while decreasing their carbon footprint. This means that emission-reduction strategies not only combat climate change but also save consumers money. Yet, many households often need support to afford the initial investment. Local housing authorities and utility companies have stepped up and helped households invest in energy-efficient upgrades by offering flexible financing plans and tax credits.

Build a new resilient infrastructure economy. Biden will create a new class of well-paying jobs and job training around climate resilient industries. Coastal restoration, resilient infrastructure design, construction and evaluation (such as bridges that withstand high winds and roads that don’t wash out during storms and floods), natural solutions (such as tree plantings on a large scale to combat urban heat and its associated negative health impacts), and technological solutions to easily assess risk and protect people and their property are all proven to improve the resilience of communities. They are also opportunities for job growth and economic vitality all over the country.

Define the climate adaptation agenda. Climate impacts are regional, and the solutions will be too.  Biden will bring together the best innovators to help design common-sense zoning and building codes and help communities build and rebuild before and after natural disasters and other shocks and stresses.

Secure the benefits coal miners and their families have earned. As marketplace competition continues to shift the country away from coal-fired electricity, we have an obligation to workers who’ve worked hard and sacrificed for the rest of us. Biden will make sure coal miners and their families receive not only the respect they deserve but also the pensions and health benefits they have been promised. Congress should do the right thing and pass legislation now to protect the retirement benefits owed to miners, their dependents, and their widows. But if Congress doesn’t act before Biden takes office, he will make sure we fulfill this obligation. And, Biden will increase coal companies’ payments into the black lung benefits program, reform the black lung benefits system so it is no longer rigged in favor of coal companies who can hire lawyers and doctors to ensure miners’ benefits are denied, expand efforts to help miners detect black lung cases earlier and access care, and enforce regulations to reduce cases of black lung in the first place.

Invest in coal and power plant communities and other communities impacted by the climate transformation. Each of these communities are necessary. We can’t write them off or act like they don’t matter. Each has assets that can be leveraged to diversify their economies, create good, middle class jobs, and help the country get stronger – assets like a rich culture, natural beauty, a proven workforce, and entrepreneurial spirit. The federal government should be a partner to help these communities capitalize on these strengths and build vibrant communities where good jobs are available and young people want to stay or return home. To support coal and power plant workers and their communities, President Biden will make an unprecedented investment building upon the vision put forward in the Obama-Biden Administration’s Power+ Plan. And, he’ll establish a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities, as the Obama-Biden Administration did for Detroit when the auto industry was in turmoil. For example, the Task Force will help these communities access federal investments and leverage private sector investments to help create high-paying union jobs based upon the unique assets of each community, partner with unions and community colleges to create training opportunities for these new jobs, repair infrastructure, keep public employees like firefighters and teachers on the payroll, and keep local hospitals open.


Read Joe Biden’s full plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice at