Kelly Nordini and Beatriz Soto
The historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will help address concerns important to Latino communities. This bill will not only help create a better world for this and future generations, but deliver tangible benefits that Coloradans will see in their everyday lives.
New public opinion research from the 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda, found that Latinos are very concerned about climate change and strongly support transitioning toward a clean energy economy.
The vast majority (82%) supported passing new regulations encouraging companies to reduce pollution, and 69% supported policies that incentivize electric vehicles and solar energy. This is no surprise, as climate change is already impacting Colorado with hotter summers, shorter winters, and worse air pollution—and Latinos know they are on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
That’s why it’s great news that Congress passed the IRA in August, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of Colorado’s pro-conservation Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. The IRA will benefit all of us, but most importantly the people who have been harmed most by decades of corporate lies and political inaction: communities on the frontlines of pollution, who are more often than not lower income, Black, Latino, Indigenous and other communities of color.
Our climate and economy are bound together, and Latinos can feel the way environmental policy decisions affect their everyday costs and ability to thrive into the future. Reliance on gas-powered vehicles and lack of investment in public transit in Latino neighborhoods has saddled working families with the burden of soaring gas prices. Families also feel the impact of this volatile industry in their electricity and heating bills.
The IRA will save families more than $1,000 per year and give more households and small businesses the opportunity to afford electric vehicles and energy efficient electric appliances like air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces, insulation, stoves, and ovens, that will protect their health and save them money in the long run.
The IRA also helps address longstanding environmental injustices. Many Latinos are already breathing higher amounts of industrial air pollution, which will only get worse with increasing heat due to climate change. Historically, racist policies and zoning laws have pushed Latino families to live near highways in neighborhoods that lack green space and tree cover, which are impacted by pollution from gas-powered trucks and cars, and lack safe ways to bike, walk, and use public transit.
The IRA will invest in the betterment of communities by expanding tree-planting projects to help cool down neighborhoods that are vulnerable to prolonged heat waves. It also creates a new grant program to improve walkability, safety, and invest in affordable, climate resilient housing.
Our climate and economy are bound together, and Latinos can feel the way environmental policy decisions affect their everyday costs and ability to thrive into the future.
This investment will be great for the economy. Colorado’s workforce is facing stagnant wages and a rising cost of living, and only 17% of Latinos reported getting a raise in the last year, with 23% saying that their workload or hours increased without a raise or promotion. The IRA bill will create good-paying clean energy jobs that are accessible to Latino communities, with incentives for companies to pay their workers a living wage. Colorado’s agricultural workers (an estimated three quarters of whom are Latino) will also see the benefits of incentives for climate-smart agriculture practices. Latinos in rural communities are also the backbone of Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy, which depends on a healthy climate to continue thriving into the future.
Climate change also exacerbates health-threatening air pollution, which is concerning given that Latino Coloradans lack health insurance at double the rate of white Coloradans. The IRA will expand access to affordable health care to an additional 700,000 Latinos nationwide and drop prescription drug costs, which could be life-changing for Latino seniors who disproportionately suffer from chronic diseases, many caused by exposure to pollution.
This is the start, not the finish line, for facing the climate crisis. The Inflation Reduction Act should raise the bar and inspire more ambitious state and local policies that address climate change and environmental injustice. It’s our job to ensure historically excluded communities of color are present at the decision-making tables.
Conservation Colorado and Protégete will continue working to protect the air, land, water and people across the state to ensure that our quality of life and our environment are protected.
Kelly Nordini is the CEO of Conservation Colorado, the largest statewide environmental organization in Colorado, and Beatriz Soto is the director of Protégete, Conservation Colorado’s program to support Latino environmental leadership.
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