It’s Earth Day, and to celebrate the Biden administration is announcing new plans to address infrastructure, climate change and environmental justice. Researchers and policymakers are paying more attention to how racial and social inequalities are affected by the climate crisis. The Biden administration hopes to approach climate from a more holistic perspective and address mounting disparities by creating a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
Listen: The role of the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
Kyle Whyte is a University of Michigan George Willis Pack Professor of Environment and Sustainability. He is also one of the 26 members of the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. To him, environmental justice is about equity. “Environmental justice means a situation where everybody enjoys a clean healthy and safe environment and also an environment where people can practice their own cultures,” says Whyte.
He adds that the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council has given those directly impacted by environmental exposures a seat at the table. “This is the first time you’ve had a group in the White House … where most of the members of the council are people from communities that have been the most burdened by environmental issues,” says Whyte on the council’s makeup.
According to Whyte, the group is working to address three areas of reform. The first being an examination of a 1994 executive order that requires federal agencies to address environmental justice. The council is also focusing on targeting infrastructure investment to mitigate existing disparities. Lastly, Whyte says the group is looking into the efficiency of the existing screening tools used to assess environmental justice concerns.