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Home » The White House Wants To Fight Climate Change And Help People. Cleveland Led The Way

The White House Wants To Fight Climate Change And Help People. Cleveland Led The Way

The White House Wants To Fight Climate Change And Help People. Cleveland Led The Way

The fight against climate change may be taking a striking new turn under the Biden administration. The White House is calling climate action a form of environmental justice, part of a campaign to address economic and racial inequity.

It's bringing new attention and, potentially, a flood of cash to low-tech approaches to climate action that directly benefit low-income neighborhoods. They include aid for home renovations and upgrades to city transportation infrastructure, including buses.

"The environmental justice community, and many of our Black and brown communities, have identified the connection between climate change and their own community infrastructure. They can't be disconnected," says Cecilia Martinez, senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Yet this shift in focus has its roots far from Washington, says Matt Gray, formerly chief of sustainability in Cleveland. "What we're seeing now at a national level has bubbled up from the cities for a good six, seven years," says Gray, now senior vice president of programs at the Student Conservation Association, which runs environmental volunteer programs. "A lot of cities have come to realize that climate action and climate justice are one and the same."

Among those cities is Cleveland. A few years ago, it explicitly linked climate policy and social equity. The story of how it developed this new approach helps explain what "climate justice" means in practice.

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