• October 28th, 2021
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We Must Work to Reach Climate Targets While Protecting Latinx Communities


Alex Valdez

 

As a Colorado State Representative to one of the most polluted zip codes in the country, my constituents suffer from unacceptably high rates of asthma and other pollution-related illnesses, and even experience shorter lifespans from exposure to polluters.

While at a campaign event in 2018, I spoke with a mother who shared the story of her son’s asthma diagnosis, no doubt resulting from the pollution near her home. She felt guilt and pain for not protecting her child sooner, yet this is not her fault — the blame lies with polluters. Time and time again, I saw a need for someone to stand up to these corporations and protect the people of Colorado, and I ran for public office so one day we won’t hear stories like this.

Colorado’s lack of urgent, rapid action in addressing air pollution creates problems for our state’s climate goals and for Latinx families who experience health problems caused by air pollution.

The Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods are frontline communities experiencing injustices, and this is no coincidence. Low-income and minority communities are subject to environmental racism and too often bear the weight of the cruel environmental impacts generated by large corporations, resulting in grave consequences for our health and future.

The current health pandemic highlights these injustices even further. Neighborhoods subject to environmental racism also have one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and transmission, with current unhealthy levels of air pollution further exacerbating COVID-19 symptoms.

We can’t ignore this pattern.

Colorado lawmakers have taken action, but we need more equitable, enforceable, and verifiable solutions to see tangible results for our communities.

Governor Polis recently unveiled Colorado’s roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and has committed to an equitable roll out. As a legislator and environmentalist, I am dedicated to meeting these carbon emissions reductions targets to guarantee a healthier future for all Coloradans.

We have seen overwhelming support for this from the Latinx community, with 82% of Latinx Colorado voters supporting bold action to combat climate change and transition to clean energy. In the last elections, 91% of Latinx voters highly ranked environmental protection and climate change mitigation efforts. It couldn’t be more clear that we must collaborate with our communities to address this crisis.

For too long we have allowed polluters to bully us into tolerating their gross behavior under the veil of money and power. It is time that we step up and abandon empty threats, instead taking active measures to drive environmental change.

For too long we have allowed polluters to bully us into tolerating their gross behavior under the veil of money and power. It is time that we step up and abandon empty threats, instead taking active measures to drive environmental change.

As the former CEO of one of Colorado’s largest solar companies, I made it my mission to promote sustainable practices and address this country’s climate crisis head on. My experience has proven that generating economic activity and doing the right thing are not mutually exclusive – we can achieve both and this is something that I strive to accomplish as a State Representative.

These principles guide me as the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee and Latino Caucus, as I listen to and address the environmental injustices experienced in Latinx communities. In these roles, I amplify Latinx voices and use legislation to create solutions that enact change at a larger scale for people of color across Colorado.

Actions have been taken, but it is not enough. We must work together to reduce air pollution and lift up Latinx communities that have suffered in its wake. This 2021 Legislative Session I will continue to prioritize our health, environment and economy, taking steps to create a cleaner, more just future for Colorado.

 

Alex Valdez is a Colorado State Representative hailing from House District 5. He currently serves as the co-chair for the Latino Democratic caucus and chair of the Energy and Environment Committee.

 

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