Child sits with signs at Milwaukee climate march 2019. Photo by: Isiah Holmes
Gov. Tony Evers established an Office of Environmental Justice on Friday to help coordinate and track the state government’s efforts to ensure that the effects of climate change don’t disproportionately harm communities of color and low income people.
The office, created on Earth Day, is meant to make sure the state’s environmental policies don’t leave anyone out. Evers signed the executive order creating the office at the Indian Community School in Franklin. The office was one of the 55 recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.
“Every Wisconsinite should have access to clean, safe drinking water, our state’s natural resources, and great places to live, learn, and work,” Evers said in a statement. “Too many Wisconsinites have felt the effects of climate change firsthand — rural communities have had roads or bridges washed out, farmers have lost crops or livestock due to extreme weather, small business owners who’ve seen their businesses destroyed by floods, or the disparate health impacts we see due to polluted air and water. The Office of Environmental Justice will play a critical role by helping promote policies and strategies to enhance climate resilience, ensuring our communities and families can prepare for and recover from the effects of climate change, and getting resources and support to folks who need our help the most.”
The office will be helmed by a director of environmental justice and include a chief resilience officer who will be in charge of helping local and tribal governments protect people and property from extreme weather events such as flooding and drought.
Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) applauded the office’s creation, saying the office will help Wisconsin respond to changing weather patterns and their effect on towns, farms and marginalized communities.
“On Earth Day, and every day, it’s vitally important we remember climate change impacts us all, but does not affect everyone equally,” Neubauer said. “Marginalized communities and people of color are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of our changing climate. I am thrilled that in order to combat inequities exacerbated by climate change, Governor Tony Evers has announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice, based on a recommendation put forward by the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change.
“So many Wisconsinites have already been affected by changing weather patterns, historic flooding, and disparate health impacts from pollution,” she continued. “Not only will this office support Wisconsin’s state agencies in addressing climate change and helping Wisconsinites to build climate resilience, but it will make sure that nobody gets left behind in the process.”
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