The Color of Climate

Here’s What Biden’s Climate Plan Means for Environmental Justice

Environmental justice activists from around the United States analyze President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for the climate and environment

Drew Costley
Future Human
Published in
6 min readNov 25, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris walk on stage wearing masks.
Photo: Mark Makela/Stringer/Getty Images

This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from Future Human exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.

At the last presidential debate in October, NBC news anchor and debate moderator Kristen Welker asked Donald Trump and Joe Biden a series of questions about climate change, and how oil refineries and chemical plants affect the health of people of color.

It was the first time the moderator of a presidential debate had ever asked about environmental justice, according to Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In response, Trump claimed that people in those communities are “employed heavily and making a lot of money — more money than they’ve ever made” but ignored the impact of pollution altogether. Biden’s response actually acknowledged the impact of industrial sites on people of color, relating it to his experience growing up near such facilities in Claymont, Delaware.

“The fact is those frontline communities, it doesn’t matter what you’re paying them, it matters how you keep them safe,” Biden said.

The Biden administration has announced that it plans to spend $2 trillion on climate, energy, and the environment, including investments in sustainable energy infrastructure and jobs, upgrades to or creation of public transportation, and the creation of a new office in the Justice Department. Environmental justice activists have been demanding these types of investments for decades. Biden also recently appointed John Kerry, a veteran Democratic politician and public official, to be special envoy to the president on climate change.

Although Biden showed an understanding of environmental justice in the debate and his team’s climate bill sounds ambitious, activists working in these frontline communities are mixed on whether his administration will deliver significant…



Drew Costley
Future Human

Drew Costley is a Staff Writer at FutureHuman covering the environment, health, science and tech. Previously @ SFGate, East Bay Express, USA Today, etc.