Blacks Getting a Seat at the Green Table

Blacks Getting a Seat at the Green Table

NEWS_ClimateChangeQAsAs world leaders from more than 190 countries meet in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to discuss ways to combat climate change and global warming, here in the U.S., President Barack Obama has championed the green revolution and energy policies as a means to get Americans working again and jumpstart the economy.

The principal cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels — coal, oil and gas, and Obama has made numerous clean energy investments in the stimulus package. The White House has also pledged to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 to about 17% below 2005 levels and about 83% by 2050.

In addition to his efforts in the U.S., Obama has engaged world leaders on the issue of climate change, and plans to address the conference on Dec. 18. The U.S. has sent over a delegation to Copenhagen that includes Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

African American communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One only needs to look at the devastating aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav for recent examples. Those vulnerabilities also stem from the lack of economic and institutional resources to avoid global warming’s worst effects, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which sent a delegation to Copenhagen. spoke with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green for All, and Gina E. Wood, the director of policy and planning at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies — both attending the conference– about the summit, getting blacks more involved in a green energy economy, and shaping the climate change discussion.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins What’s your role — and Green For All’s — at the conference in Copenhagen?

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: I will be acting as a delegate to the U.N. When we get to Copenhagen, our job will be threefold. The first is to participate in the activities. The second is really to bring the issues and concerns of communities of color and low-income communities to Copenhagen and then be able to translate those issues back to communities here. Last but not least is really to integrate those issues into the larger environmental and economic movement and to be able to make the case that some of the issues that are important to us such as food and land that are not currently part of the discussions should be part of the discussion in the future.

Why is the conference important?

Gina E. Wood: All countries are vulnerable to climate change, but the poorest countries and poorest people within them are most vulnerable. In this decade alone, over 3 billion people in developing countries could be affected by climate-related disasters. People in developing countries are affected at 20 times the rate of those in developed countries. Leaders from around the world will gather in Copenhagen to craft a fair, ambitious, and binding international agreement to solve climate change.