Ana Baptista, a Leading Environmental Justice Advocate, Testifies to House Select Committee on Solving the Climate Crisis
The United States is in the midst of several interrelated crises — the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, which has also sparked an economic crisis; the effects of systemic racism; and the ongoing climate crisis — that disproportionately affect communities of color and low-wealth communities. Recently, the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis invited experts including New School faculty member Ana Baptista, an assistant professor of professional practice and the associate director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center, to testify at a hearing on the climate crisis. Held remotely through video conferencing, the hearing, “Solving the Climate Crisis: Building a Vibrant and Just Clean Energy Economy,” focused on how to build a vibrant clean-energy economy that centers environmental justice while creating high-paying, high-quality jobs.
Dr. Baptista was invited to address the committee because of her work as a representative of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, which she helped draft and launch. “Part of our collaborative efforts have involved briefing various policymakers, including the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis,” says Baptista. “The lead authors of the Select Committee’s climate action plan — Solving the Climate Crisis — asked me and several other members of the platform to weigh in with recommendations and input, particularly centering environmental justice, for the drafting of the report.”
The creation of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was authorized on January 9, 2019, in response to the growing threat of climate change. Its membership is composed of representatives including experts in environmental justice, coastal flooding, clean energy development and other issues related to the climate crisis. During the hearing, the Committee chair, Representative Kathy Castor (FL-14), acknowledged that Congress “must tackle the climate crisis while heeding the calls for racial justice, protecting the health of our families, and helping our neighbors get back to work. We can rebuild our economy in a resilient way that reduces greenhouse gas pollution and protects the air that we breathe. We have a moral obligation to solve the climate crisis and build back better for decades to come.”
Testifying along with three other climate crisis experts — Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance; Beth Soholt, executive director of the Clean Grid Alliance; and Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of Environmental Progress — Dr. Baptista used this opportunity to urge policymakers to tackle the worst effects of climate change and inequality. “With looming national elections, it is imperative to ensure that we break from the status quo and seek a more transformational and justice-centered approach to the intersecting crises of environmental racism, climate change, and inequality,” she said. “Policymakers need to hear this message and lead with the approaches that are grounded in the grassroots, frontline-led movements for climate justice.”
Since its formation, the Select Committee has met with a range of experts, from student activists and academics to industry leaders and policy analysts, as it works on designing policy recommendations for Congress. “My hope is that policymakers strengthened their resolve to push a more ambitious and equity-focused set of climate policies that can advance environmental and economic justice goals,” says Baptista. “The testimony points to the tangible, multiple benefits that can come from investing in a just transition away from an extractivist, fossil fuel economy towards a regenerative and just climate future.”