UNITED STATES: On Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating that every federal agency work towards “environmental justice for all” and enhance the lives of areas most adversely affected by toxic pollution and climate change.
The order will create a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House to coordinate efforts throughout the government and mandate federal agencies to warn communities if harmful substances are released from a federal facility.
Disasters like the February derailment of a goods train in East Palestine, Ohio, which resulted in a hazardous chemical leak, raised attention to the environmental harm that some areas endure at a higher rate.
“It has to do with people’s well-being. It has to do with the welfare of our communities. It’s only about the future of our planet,” Biden told lawmakers, activists, and others prior to signing the order in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The Democratic president, who may officially declare his candidature for re-election as early as Tuesday, said the order would advance efforts to undo years of discriminatory policies, such as residential “redlining,” that harmed black and other minority groups.
He condemned Republican attempts to overturn the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate-related sections, arguing that doing so would harm efforts to lessen pollution and promote sustainable energy rather than eliminate $30 billion in oil industry subsidies.
The White House stated in a statement that “Communities all around our nation have endured persistent environmental injustice for far too long as a result of toxic pollution, underfunding of essential infrastructure and services, and other disproportionate environmental harms, frequently as a result of a history of racial discrimination.”
The president has utilised his executive authority in areas where a divided Congress has impeded his ability to enact new legislation.
According to Cathleen Kelly, a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress, the order will help hold the federal government responsible for how its policies affect low-income, black, brown, and Indigenous communities that face hazardous conditions.
“Due to systemic racism and long-term underinvestment in these communities, the susceptibility to climate change is increased,” she stated.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris made a separate trip to Miami on Friday to make an announcement about a $562 million commitment to support local communities efforts to adapt to climate change.
Harris’ trip occurred at a time when South Florida is struggling with a gasoline shortage as a result of flooding last week, which hampered supply and caused some panic buying at the pump.