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Nevada groups focus on climate impact on diverse communities

August 22, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Several organizations in Nevada led by women of color have banded together to shed light on the ways the state’s low income and diverse communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution.

The advocacy groups are creating a website, breathefreenv.com, that aims to raise awareness about climate change and steps that can be taken to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health and lower energy costs for families, especially in low-income communities.

Erika Washington, executive director of Make It Work Nevada, one of the groups involved in the effort, told the Las Vegas Sun that Black communities have not received as much outreach about climate change or the environment as white communities.

“It’s been very white-led for a very long time,” said Washington, who is Black. “You have to include the people who are closest to the issue in order to actually make any sort of change.”

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Along with Make It Work Nevada, other groups participating include Battle Born Progress, CHISPA, Make The Road Nevada, Mi Familia Vota Nevada, the Faith Organizing Alliance and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) Action Fund. All seven groups are led by women of color.

Laura Martin, executive director of PLAN, who is Black, said it’s a rare combination to see so many groups with diverse leaders doing environmental advocacy work.

“Environment isn’t just the public lands or the recreation that we can do. It’s also environmental racism,” she said. “That’s what we wanted to do with this report, is really start diving into this conversation but also crafting and supporting policy ideas that are tangible and doable.”

The group has been highlighting a new report from the Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) that looks at the burden of energy costs and impacts on Nevadans, especially low-income residents and communities of color.

According to the report, those groups have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing impact of climate change, making it all the more important that measures to eliminate greenhouse gases and mitigate climate change address those inequities.

“Low-income households and populations of color often struggle to pay for the electricity and fuels they rely on to power their homes and vehicles,” the report states. “These and many other social inequities impact every sector of the economy, and decarbonization efforts should consider these existing disparities in order to develop clean energy transition strategies that distribute benefits more evenly across the Nevada population.”

Among its findings is a recommendation that elected officials and governments create financial incentives that make electric vehicles accessible for low-income communities.

Electric vehicles are considered an environmentally friendly alternative to gas-powered cars but they are often too expensive for low-income residents.

Martin suggested policymakers focus on incentivizing more mass transit powered by renewable energy.