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President Joe Biden participates in a virtual event in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 19, 2021, in Washington, DC.
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NewsDefend the Planet

Activists Urge President Biden to Do More to Fight Inequality Caused by Climate Change

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, April 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Climate justice leaders criticized President Joe Biden on Thursday for a measure designed to combat inequality caused by climate change, arguing it does not go far enough.

In January, Biden signed a wave of executive orders directing the federal government to address climate change, including a measure that would direct 40% of benefits from clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.

But in an online webinar, leading climate justice activists said more of these benefits needed to be allocated to low-income neighborhoods, which are disproportionately prone to the negative impacts of climate change.

"If we make 40% the target, then we've failed," said Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, a climate justice group, and a member of the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

"If you think about 40% of this country and who that includes, we have not reached the full breadth of the people who are struggling and suffering every day and have been ... redlined out of these types of government programs and benefits."

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The activists urged the Biden administration to allocate more to disadvantaged communities, but also to better define and lay out how it plans to track and measure where the benefits are going.

Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, a New York-based climate justice group, said this divergence of views showed that the administration was not doing enough to consult on-the-ground groups fighting these issues.

"There has to be a flip in the way we're thought of, and we need to be thought of and engaged as partners, meaningfully engaged in decision making," Yeampierre said.

"If the federal government follows the lead of frontline communities that are literally transforming the landscape, we should be able to move as quickly as climate change is moving."

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Criticism of the executive action comes as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure from businesses and advocacy groups to address racial inequality in the fight against climate change.

On Wednesday, a group of about 50 US investor, business, and civil society groups called on the administration to reform business and finance rules to combat rising inequality and climate change.

The coalition, led by the US Impact Investing Alliance and B Lab, both of which lobby for business to be a force for good, said the White House should launch an initiative to make the economy more socially and environmentally responsible.

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Biden repeatedly cited climate change as one of his administration's top priorities while on the campaign trail.

As president, he has issued a flurry of other executive actions aimed at combating global warming and has included climate initiatives in his $1.9 trillion stimulus package and proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

Biden will also hold a world leaders' summit on climate change on April 22, by which time Washington aims to unveil a carbon-cut pledge for 2030 under the Paris climate agreement.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes; editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)