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Highlights:

  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a new comprehensive environmental justice strategy 
  • The new office emerged in wake of the Biden Administration’s urgency on addressing the climate crisis 

WASHINGTON – On May 5th, 2022, The U.S. Department of Justice announced it is opening a new office aimed at addressing the climate crisis and environmental justice. This news followed the SECs proposal on mandatory climate change disclosures for publicly traded companies. 

The DOJ’s Office of Environmental Justice emerged to foster a new ESG strategy. This strategy aims to address the growing concerns of the disproportionate impacts of climate change among low-income communities. 

‘’Although violations of our environmental laws can happen anywhere, communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities often bear the brunt of the harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change,” Attorney General Garland said in a statement.

BIPOC and particularly low income communities have borne the brunt and risks associated with climate change. According to the EPA, climate change has created disproportionate impacts on socially vulnerable communities in the United States. Furthermore, the peer reviewed study focused on six impact sectors to address the growing environmental justice concerns.

Key Findings:

  • Six Impact Sectors: Air Quality & Health, Extreme Temperature & Health, Extreme Temperature & Labor, Coastal Flooding & Traffic, Coastal Flooding & Property, and InLand Flooding & Property. 
  • Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher impacts of climate change for all six impacts sectors analyzed in this study (Compared to all demographics analyzed in this study).
  • Black and African Americans are 34% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma diagnoses. This rises to 41% under 4°C (7.2°F) of global warming.
  • Black and African Americans are 40% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected increases in extreme temperature related deaths. This rises to 59% under 4°C of global warming.
  • With 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming, Hispanic and Latino individuals are 43% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labor hours due to extreme temperatures.
  • Hispanic and Latino individuals are about 50% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest estimated increases in traffic delays due to increases in coastal flooding.

Biden Administration: Environmental Justice Strategy

The Biden Administration is taking swift action on the climate crisis. This comes as the Trump Administration largely ignored issues related to climate change and environmental justice. The new office will be led by Cynthia Ferguson, an attorney with more than a decade of experience on environmental justice, the report said. 

Also, Garland said that the department is working to restore an enforcement tool that was terminated by the previous administration. These supplemental environmental projects are used to compensate victims in cases where environmental laws were violated. Moreover, these environmental laws violations are particularly present in BIPOC communities. 

The Department of Justice Interim Final Review aims to invite public comment on the new guidelines and limitations. 

You can view the DOJ’s statement here

EPA Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States report.

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