In 2017, New York City enacted local laws to codify environmental justice into city decision-making.
Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all persons, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, policies and activities and with respect to the distribution of environmental benefits..
To understand environmental justice (EJ), it is important to first understand environmental injustice. For far too long, communities with a majority of low-income residents, communities of color - often those with the least amount of power and contribution to environmental degradation - have experienced a disproportionate share of poor environmental outcomes.
Environmental justice works to address this by ensuring access and inclusion for people at every level of the planning and decision-making process, and equal protection from environmental and health hazards. This also includes implementing polices designed to close the gap on these environmental health disparities.
Climate justice is the recognition that it is these same historically overburdened communities that are most vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate. Disparities that are persistent in our society, from social, to economic and health inequities, can be exacerbated by impacts of climate change like extreme heat, flooding, and catastrophic weather events. The pursuit of climate justice also means holding those with the most responsibility for the climate crisis accountable.
This philosophy is based on a set of foundational principles developed by organizations with decades of experience fighting for climate and environmental justice worldwide and here in New York City. Read more about the history of the environmental justice movement.
OneNYC 2050, New York City's Green New Deal is a long-term strategy to secure our city's future against the challenges of today and tomorrow, with bold actions to confront our climate crisis, achieve equity, and strengthen our democracy. Released in April 2019, OneNYC2050 demonstrates our commitment to a just transition to carbon neutrality, climate resiliency, and a clean economy— one that improves environmental quality for all, prioritizes vulnerable New Yorkers and frontline communities, seeks to redress current and past injustice, and creates economic opportunities for all, while holding those responsible for climate change to account.
In 2017, New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into legislation Local Law 60 & Local Law 64 to codify environmental justice into City decision-making, Local Law 60 requires that a citywide study of environmental justice be conducted. The results of this study will be made available to the public and placed on the City's website. Local Law 64 requires the establishment of an Environmental Justice Advisory Board, comprised of EJ advocates, academics, and public health experts, to work with the City on identifying and addressing environmental injustices. In addition, City agencies must work with the Advisory Board to develop plans to address environmental injustices in communities of color and low-income communities in consultation with the impacted communities.