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Wisconsin’s Climate Task Force recommendations focus on environmental justice

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s Climate Task Force focuses on environmental justice in its first report on cleaner air and water.

The Task Force released its report Wednesday. Many recommendations are not new, but almost all are presented through the lens of environmental justice.

“The climate crisis is taking a toll on everyone in our state, but communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to face the harshest impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to the problem,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said. “In order to address this crisis and the environmental injustices associated with it, we must take urgent action, and we must ensure those actions are equitable and inclusive—anything less will continue the long pattern of environmental racism we have witnessed in this country.”

The report recommends nearly 50 changes or goals. Chief among them is to create an Officer of Environmental Justice.

The Task Force report says that the office will be “tasked with collaborating across state agencies and engaging with Black, Indigenous and communities of color, low-income communities, and environmental justice advocates to design climate policies that reduce emissions and pollutants and address the cumulative and deadly impacts of their concentration within these communities.”

The report also calls for a racial disparity impact study to “protect historically disproportionately impacted populations, [and] limit opportunities for environmental and communal harm while simultaneously creating a market for cleaner energy options and equitable developments.”

The authors reinforce Wisconsin’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 60% of 2005 levels by 2030 and being carbon neutral by 2050.

The report’s most impactful suggestions focus on cars and trucks, and mass transit and electric vehicles.

Again, the Task Force frames this debate in racial justice.

“Utilizing a smart-growth planning approach encourages and improves regional accessibility, housing and neighborhood density, mixed-use development, street connectivity, walkability, and public transit proximity. This type of integrated approach to land-use planning will increase economic, social, and environmental benefits across the state,” the report states. “Research has shown that environmentally harmful infrastructure such as highways and ports have been intentionally and disproportionately placed in low-income communities and communities of color.”

The report goes on to suggest more mass transit projects across the state, as well as a network to support electric vehicles.

Many of the report’s recommendations can be accomplished by executive action from Gov. Tony Evers, while other suggestions will require new legislation.

By Benjamin Yount | The Center Square
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Reposted with permission