The symposium opened with a high-level morning discussion spotlighting the need for the science of climate change to be more closely connected with environmental law enforcement in disproportionately burdened communities. “By addressing this need and bringing the people of these communities firmly into the debate, we can ensure that climate change policies are fair, effective and mitigate global warming's outsized threats to low income areas while delivering clean jobs and related economic growth in places where they are most needed,” said Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The conversation also centered on advancing U.S. climate policy in light of the global economic context and the upcoming international climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.
Participants in the morning session included Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-TX), who hosted the Opening Plenary in conjunction with the 2010 Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “I applaud the Joint Center in helping stakeholders bridge the gaps in science, policy and practice for the betterment of African Americans and communities of color.”
The afternoon sessions focused on how “smart growth” can scale up equity in transportation, housing and other related areas. “Transportation is a crucial link to ensuring opportunity for all—connecting us to jobs, schools, housing, health care, and grocery stores. Federal transportation policy choices—what we build, where we put it, who builds it, what energy powers it—have an enormous impact on our economy, our climate, and our health,” said former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater. “We must invest in a manner that builds a nation where all people can participate and prosper.”
Moving to the global stage, the final session highlighted the need for stimulating trade, investment, technology transfer and development between the U.S. and Africa. “We cannot afford to delay action on greenhouse gas emissions. The United States now has a tremendous opportunity to put in place policies that will promote sustainable economic growth and demonstrate to the world the advantages of developing and using low-carbon technologies,” offered Dr. Sheila T. Freeman, a leading expert on trade and development, and a former U.S. diplomat.
The “Critical Issues in Climate Change” Symposium is part of the commemoration of the Joint Center's 40th Anniversary and sponsored by its Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change to spotlight the issues and help frame a new conversation on U.S. climate policy. According to Gina E. Wood, Joint Center’s Director of Policy and Planning, “the right climate legislation can transform the economy… lead to energy independence, improve quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live on, create millions of new jobs, and launch the U.S. as global leader in clean energy economy.”
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation’s leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color. The Joint Center is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year.