In May 2019 Mary Robinson, past President of Ireland, then UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, succinctly defined climate justice as “a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart.” The Biden Administration has embraced this shift in its Executive Order on tackling the climate crisis, which puts environmental justice at the heart of these initiatives.
Perhaps more significantly, President Biden has filled every environmental leadership post in the Administration with proven environmental justice champions who have earned the respect of the environmental and climate justice community. Peggy Shepard, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental justice leaders, credits the administration with taking a “significant step for responding to the ambivalence and structural racism that is prolonging the climate crisis.”
How this will impact the building industry’s current focus on embodied carbon remains to be seen. In this article, Bill Walsh explored the intersection of embodied carbon and environmental justice and laid out how policies can be aligned to address both. Our new Administration has an opportunity to advance EC initiatives in a manner consistent with environmental justice principles. Central to this is a simple philosophy: It’s not “green” if it is not green and healthy for all.