- Polluted Environments Affecting Racial Communities (Black, Asian, and Roma populations)
One notable climate justice issue that is prominent in the EU is racial equality. In the EU, one of the issues that racialized communities face is that they are often located in polluted environments that have a negative impact on their wellbeing. Urban areas, which often serve as major production centers and greenhouse gas emitters, cause high rates of pollution and the creation of gases that are harmful for racial communities to inhale. The inhalation of these gases frequently can lead to additional health costs that individuals in these communities often cannot afford. In the UK, for example, Black communities in London are more likely than other groups to be situated in areas where there is high pollution due to the socio-economic systems that are in place that encourage Black families to congregate in these “hotspots”. Black communities who are of a lower socioeconomic status often cannot afford to live or work in other regions and are unable to move to less polluted areas.
The Roma communities in the EU similarly face problems related to environmental racism, as they often are forced to live on polluted wastelands and lack water and sanitation in their homes. Moreover, as the EU continues to renovate and build public and private buildings that are energy efficient in an attempt to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, in countries where social welfare is not a primary concern, it is likely that marginalized communities will be excluded from taking advantage of the lower energy bills associated with living in these renovated buildings since they will not be able to afford the cost of buying or renting a space in them. Another pertinent issue low-income racialized communities face is the issue of energy poverty, which once again can lead to unfavorable health conditions and restricted access to activities that promote economic and social mobility.
The EU currently has in place an Anti-Racism Action Plan (ARAP) that has the goal of taking action against racism and achieving a Union of Equality. Through the EU’s ARAP, which integrates anti-racism with Commissioners’ Group strategies, the EU is attempting to integrate the perspectives of racialized people into EU policies. The ARAP aims to highlight the needs and realities of racialized and marginalized communities through enforcing a series of measures meant to, “Step up action, to help lift the voices of people with a minority racial or ethnic background, and to bring together actors at all levels in a common endeavor to address racism more effectively and build a life free from racism and discrimination for all.” These measures include both a comprehensive assessment of the existing legal framework that is in place in an attempt to better achieve racial equality and countering discrimination in areas such as law enforcement, employment, education, health and housing.
However, the Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, which is a coalition of racial and social justice leaders, activists and organizers across Europe that is working to achieve racial justice in European Union law and policy, has found that there are three main issues that the EU still faces in achieving racial equality in its climate policies. These issues include that there is “no baseline of historical responsibility and global dependency”, a “failure to acknowledge specific harms and impact experiences by racialized communities” and a “lack of meaningful participatory processes to engage civil society representing racialized people in Europe and globally”. For example, the European Green Deal (EGD) discusses the need to ensure a “just and inclusive transition” but fails to explain who the vulnerable groups in this transition are and how the EU is actively working to make sure that these groups can participate in political and policy-making processes. In order to better ameliorate some of these racial inequalities, Equinox has proposed a series of recommendations that will allow the EU to better connect its current ARAP with climate issues. Equinox suggests that the EU needs to improve its political commitment to racial justice as climate justice, create institutional change, create integrated and coherent policy links between the AARP and the European Green Deal and foster a new relationship with civil society.
One of Equinox’s specific proposals that falls under these categories is to have the European Parliament President work with the “newly appointed ARAP coordinator to ensure links between the ARAP and EGD, detailing in a European Commission Communication as to how this process will be ensured”. Another is “with the support of impacted communities and human rights groups, the European Commission” should “conduct an independent power analysis of the environmental injustices and climate transition externalities and the ‘shifting of burdens’ on the Global South by public and private entities; with scope to identify their systemic connection to colonialism”. Through suggestions like these, which are feasible for the EU to enact in that they do not necessarily require new resources, the EU should be able to better achieve climate justice with regard to the issue of racial equality.
Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice
Sarah Chander, Co-Founder
Learn More Sources
Bieling, Alena. “EU Anti-Racism Action Plan Aligns Well with UN Report on Racial Justice.” www.euractiv.com, EURACTIV.com, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.euractiv.com/section/non-discrimination/news/eu-anti-racism-action-plan-aligns-well-with-un-report-on-racial-justice/.
“EU Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-2025.” European Commission – European Commission, 17 Mar. 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/combatting-discrimination/racism-and-xenophobia/eu-anti-racism-action-plan-2020-2025_en.
Towards Climate Justice. Equinox, https://www.equinox-eu.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Towards-Climate-Justice-Equinox.pdf.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Manager Brittany Demogenes