Red Black & Green New Deal: Climate agenda for Black Lives Matter

One year after the murder of George Floyd, Al Jazeera examines the intersection of racial and climate justice taking shape in the form of the Red Black & Green New Deal.

Black activists are fusing calls for racial justice with climate action and proposing what they call a Red Black & Green New Deal [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

One year ago, George Floyd – a Black man in Minnesota – was chillingly murdered by a white police officer in a case that rocked the United States and the world and reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nationwide, the response to Floyd’s killing went beyond calls for criminal justice reform. Activists have rallied to demand more equitable policies to tackle structural violence, as well as racially driven income, health and housing disparities.

Promoting environmental justice is also high on the agenda.

The Red Black & Green New Deal is part of that movement and represents a new approach to environmental issues that fuses the politics of Black liberation with efforts to tackle climate change.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Black Lives Matter (BLM), again?

BLM is a decentralised political and social movement begun in 2013 to protest racially motivated violence and police brutality against Black Americans.

More activist groups joined the movement following Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

How did the Red Black & Green New Deal (RBGND) come about?

Within the framework of Black Lives Matter, the RBGND campaign asserts that racial justice is climate justice. During the virtual National Black Climate Summit on May 11, activists proposed a national climate agenda as part of the larger Movement for Black Lives, which includes the BLM network.

The deal aims to address the fact that minority communities in the US are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental racism, which affects everything from the housing available to them to their access to clean air and water.

Why are those colours significant?

Historically, red, black and green represent the hues of the Pan-African flag designed in 1920 by Black nationalist Marcus Garvey. The three colours are said to represent the unity of Black people and the abundant natural wealth of Africa.

Does this idea stem from the Green New Deal?

Yes, the name is riffing on the Green New Deal, which calls for legislation to address climate change, job creation and economic inequality. That federal proposal was cosponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but has failed to advance in the Senate.

The Green New Deal is also riffing on the original New Deal, a series of pioneering programmes created by US President Franklin D Roosevelt in the 1930s that kick-started public works projects and regulated the financial sector. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Social Security Administration were among the results.

Got it. Back to the RBGND. How would that proposal work?

The proposal lists six pillars its authors say will create a sustainable future: democracy, economy, labour, land, energy and water. The driving force is to address the climate crisis by investing in Black communities while repairing past harms.

What exactly does it advocate?

According to the RBGND authors, climate change is a byproduct of an “economic system based on extraction, exploitation, accumulation through dispossession, and white supremacy”.

They say that extreme weather events will “continually get worse” for Black people if restorative action is not taken soon. And they also argue that calls to defund the police are inextricably linked to climate justice.

Could this plan help end systemic racism?

A report (PDF) on fossil fuel racism published in April by Greenpeace USA, the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy and the Movement for Black Lives explains how phasing out oil, gas and coal will protect vulnerable groups and address acute threats to public health like hazardous air pollution.

That can be achieved, advocates say, by immediately dismantling fossil-fuel infrastructure — halting new projects and winding down existing production.

Does this tie into President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill?

Biden is still working with Congress to push through his American Jobs Plan, which is now a $1.7 trillion effort that includes some components seeking to undo historic injustice and promote equity in transportation projects, for example.

His administration has said that the country is currently facing four crises: the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, racial inequality and climate change.

What could the RBGND accomplish?

The initiative is a way to influence policymaking by governments at all levels – including cities and states across the country that are increasingly looking at climate through an equity lens.

In addition, many corporations are turning towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in their decisions about how to allocate resources.

Source: Al Jazeera