Black History Month bonus: Political leaders
By Berit Thorson
Last week, we highlighted four Black environmental artists who use their medium to speak on issues like climate change, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. Although Black History Month is officially over, we want to celebrate the life and work of Black people year-round. In that spirit, we have one final round-up for you! This week, we are looking at Black political leaders who support climate solutions.
One of the most prominent Black political appointees is Michael Regan, the current Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan was appointed to the position by President Biden and sworn into office in March of 2021. The 16th EPA Administrator, he is the first Black man and second person of color to hold the position. He is known for being “guided by a belief in forming consensus, fostering an open dialogue rooted in respect for science and the law, and an understanding that environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand.” He plans to make environmental justice a priority as he guides the EPA, noting that “too many communities whose residents are predominantly of color, Indigenous, or low-income continue to suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels and the resulting adverse health and environmental impacts.” Because the EPA sets regulations on environmental laws to protect human health and the environment, Regan’s focus on environmental justice brings an intersectional lens to recognize connected forms of injustice.
Within the legislative branch, there are many supporters of climate solutions who are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00) are all on that list. All three have cosponsored the Environmental Justice for All Act as well as the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2021. Reps. Beatty and Johnson and Del. Norton are also cosponsors of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2021, which is up to 94 cosponsors!
One of the more well-known Black political climate supporters is Cory Booker, a U.S. Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful from New Jersey. Inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sen. Booker originally introduced the Climate Stewardship Act in 2019, which would have provided support for “voluntary climate stewardship practices” by farmers as well as called for planting about 16 billion trees, in addition to proposing other agricultural climate solutions. Although it did not pass, Booker’s commitment to broad and immediate climate solutions is clear in his legislative actions. In April of 2021, Booker reintroduced the Climate Stewardship Act, and it was subsequently referred to the Committee on Agriculture, where it is still.
Of course, the White House also says that climate is a priority. Vice President Kamala Harris is the highest-ranked Black person and woman in the executive branch. Her track record on climate solutions includes sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation like the Green New Deal, the Climate Equity Act, and the Zero-Emissions Vehicles Act. Before her tenure in the Senate, while Attorney General of California, she “opposed expansions by Chevron and other fossil fuel giants.” Vice President Harris is arguably the most visible person to the public on this list, and as we at CCL know, one of the most important and useful tools we have is people with the power to create lasting change who will prioritize climate solutions.
Thank you for following along with our 2022 Black History Month blog series! If you missed any of the previous weeks, check them out here:
We will continue to highlight important work by Black activists, leaders, and artists in the climate space throughout the year! Check out our podcast, Citizens’ Climate Radio, or subscribe to our blog to stay up to date.
Berit Thorson is the CCL Spring 2022 Communications Intern. As an outdoors enthusiast, she is passionate about protecting nature and people from the impacts of climate change, and is excited to be working with CCL toward these goals.