Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation


A wide array of Hispanic-serving organizations on Friday announced an initiative to promote environmental standards focused on Latino communities, which are disproportionately affected by climate change and pollution.

The Latino Climate Justice Framework Project is an alliance of 23 organizations ranging from the two largest Hispanic civil rights groups, UnidosUS and the League of United Latin American Citizens, to environmental groups like GreenLatinos, to grassroots voting organizations like Mi Familia Vota.

The alliance is asking political leaders to include Latino-specific climate priorities in the Build Back Better plan and beyond, including funding for culturally appropriate information on the environment, better access to emergency response and attention to climate change-related crises throughout the Americas.

Hispanic communities in the United States are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental pollution in large part because of geographic and economic factors.

The environment consistently ranks among the top five issues of importance for Latino voters, a reflection of its immediate effect on the community’s quality of life.

“Our communities have suffered from a history of environmental racism that has historically and purposefully placed polluting industries in our communities, and also placed [us] financially only able to get housing in areas of high risk — high risk of flooding, high risk of hurricanes, high risk of tornadoes, high risk of heat and drought,” said Mark Magaña, founding president and CEO of GreenLatinos.

The coalition follows an August letter sent by the groups to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling for the upcoming reconciliation bill to include provisions to explicitly address the disproportionate effects of climate change on Hispanic communities.

“Latinx communities are on the frontlines of climate change. We live in geographies with high exposure to climate hazards and are overrepresented in industries that make us susceptible to their impact, such as the agricultural and construction sectors—both vulnerable to increasing incidence of extreme heat days and wildfire smoke,” reads the letter.

While Hispanic advocacy groups, and in particular environmental Hispanic advocacy groups, generally support the Biden administration’s Build Back Better initiative, there is a sense of frustration among many Latinos that Democrats need to be reminded to include green carveouts for some of the communities most affected by climate change.

Still, members of the Latino Climate Justice Framework Project are generally supportive of the administration’s plan to pass a thorough “human” infrastructure package addressing climate change among other social priorities.

“Latinos are passionate about protecting the environment for the health and economic prosperity of generations to come. UnidosUS Action Fund works to expand the political power of Latinos to have their vision for a real investment in climate change reflected in the final Budget Reconciliation package,” said Rafael Collazo, executive director of the UnidosUS Action Fund.

The final contents of the reconciliation package are being hashed out in tense negotiations between progressives — who wanted a minimum 10-year, $3.5 trillion price tag — and moderates in the Senate, who have pushed to cap the project at around $2 trillion.

While the final language of the bill is far from finished, environmental issues are already a sticking point as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said a clean energy provision of the bill “makes no sense at all.”

Democrats must get buy-in from all their senators for a reconciliation bill to avoid a Republican filibuster, essentially giving every Democratic senator a veto over the final product.

Magaña said the Latino environmental coalition has not drawn any red lines in terms of cuts they would deem unacceptable, instead focusing on lobbying to include the environmental needs of Hispanic communities.

“While we support the Build Back Better agenda and want to make sure as much of it is included in a large and robust budget reconciliation bill, we do see that there are some holes and needs for issues that disproportionately affect our community,” said Magaña.

Tags Chuck Schumer Climate change Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi

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