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Regarding Race and Climate Policy: A Letter to Carbon Washington’s Yoram Bauman

Yoram Bauman

September 17, 2015

Yoram Bauman
Carbon Washington

Dear Dr. Bauman,

We are writing to request that you renounce your remarks published in the New York Times Blog, “TheUpshot” on September 4th, 2015.  Specifically, your statement that race and class are anything other than the serious and fundamental factors that they are in addressing the climate crisis exposes a flaw in your approach. We call on you to publicly recognize that (1) racial and economic justice are critical issues for any effective climate policy and (2) communities of color and people with lower incomes have experience, expertise and leadership essential to the climate movement.

As you know, the Communities of Color for Climate Justice disagree with the policy approach you drafted.  This growing coalition of 50 racial and economic justice organizations statewide, are organizing around a set of Principles for Climate Justice.  Every day it becomes clearer that an effective, achievable climate policy can only come through the direct engagement with, and substantive investment in, communities hit first and worst by global warming. A fair, enduring policy centers on equity, creates net environmental and economic benefits for highly impacted communities and, from the outset, is structured for inclusivity, accountability, and transparency.

By identifying race and class anything other than the legitimate climate policy issues that they are, you fall in line with the legacy of exclusion and tokenism that has plagued mainstream environmentalism, just as local organizations and activists have opened doors to integrating strategies that advance racial equity with strategies to address climate change.  You are well aware of the leadership that communities of color demonstrate on climate, as well as the disproportionate impacts of climate change on people with lower incomes and people of color.  Your ill-advised comment was bizarrely out of step for the climate movement, the environmental movement and the movements for racial and economic justice.

That is why we are writing you to request your unequivocal acknowledgement that communities of color and people with lower incomes have places at the front and center of the climate movement.