October 6, 2022

Reflections on the Racial Equity Focus at the NYC Panel on Climate Change

Reflections on the Racial Equity Focus at the NYC Panel on Climate Change

By Georgia Grziwach
|September 14, 2022

A person holding a sign that says

Picture: Tim Pierce

New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) is a unique institution. Launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in August 2008, the organization works to synthesize climate science and advise policymakers on local resilience and adaptation strategies to protect the city from future environmental hazards. Is composed of 20 volunteer members With a wide range of academic and professional expertise, the panel is divided into six working groups, each addressing a climate change challenge unique to New York City, from flooding and health to predictions and future prospects. . Ultimately, the NPCC aims to approach climate science from an interdisciplinary perspective to better prepare the city for future climate impacts.

Recently, NPCC members have committed to addressing “fairness, equity, diversity, and inclusion” in their work and are taking steps to actively engage in anti-racism. With the support of Network of environmental and climate justice cities At the Climate School, I became the first member of Columbia University’s NPCC to work as a race law intern. My role was to support this work and to help NPCC move forward.

Last spring, the panel asked its members to reflect personally on equality and racism, both individually and within the NPCC. At the same time, the panel members also trained with black spaceAn interdisciplinary group of Black urbanists committed to acknowledging, affirming, and strengthening the presence of Black people in the environment has been built. Following these activities, in the fall of 2021, each working group completed an interim report outlining the status of its work in relation to racial equity and completed a second workshop with BLACKSPACE.

Based on this, the NPCC sought to develop a framework for evaluating its work in the fight against racism. My job as a racial justice intern was to help revise and implement a racial equity rubric. The purpose of this rubric was to allow work groups to collectively assess their commitment to racial equity. At the same time, the groups were involved in the process of researching and drafting the upcoming NPCC 4 report, which aims to further embed equity, equality, diversity and inclusion during development. NPCC 3.

To help revise the rubric, I first searched for other examples of internal racial equity assessments conducted by state advisory boards. While I thought this type of work had been done by other municipalities and aimed to build on their equity initiatives, I was looking for some kind of government-based evaluation strategy that I could use as an example in my own development. It goes without saying that there weren’t many examples of local government climate change advisory boards, let alone using racial equity laws within them. This means that our work this summer, if successful, can be an example for other organizations and institutions within the government. Of course this is leading NPCC work, but the potential for impact didn’t dawn on me until then.

Therefore, due to the apparent lack of sample rubrics, I turned instead to current research and methodology on antiracist assessments and assessment techniques. I studied the ways in which various academic departments can contribute to racial equality, reviewed articles on the importance of language in anti-racist work, explored white supremacy and white fragility complexes (with the help of Robin D’Angelo) and consulted with the company Evaluating the impact of racial equality. Finally, I learned about ways to translate the concept of anti-racism into it Action – A process I felt should be included in the NPCC.

After two months of studying, researching, writing, taking notes and attending NPCC meetings, my main point is importance Action More than a concrete verbal commitment, this could look like continuing with annual race equality trainings, having a draft chapter reviewed by non-governmental experts and community members, or creating a more digestible and less formal version of the report. For all the important and truly pioneering work the NPCC does on racial equality as a municipal advisory board, there is still considerable room for the board and its members to be complicit in the systems of oppression that sustain it. And think about it inside. The racism that lies in its processes and procedures.

Moving forward, the NPCC plans to bring in additional Race Equality Fellows to complete two additional external evaluations based on drafts of the upcoming chapter of the NPCC Working Groups. This is a necessary and important next step in the Board’s racial equality journey, but it is by no means the end. Racial equality is not a short-term commitment. It takes learning, growth, acknowledgment, accountability, time, and most importantly, action. It won’t be an easy journey, but NPCC is definitely on the way. I hope that the Columbia School of Climate can continue to support the NPCC with this and other work through the continuation of the NPCC Fellows Program, as well as learn lessons for its own anti-racism work on campus.

Editor’s note: The Columbia Climate School is dedicated to incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism into all aspects of our work—including by hiring a Associate Professor Work to ensure a welcoming, diverse and inclusive culture throughout the school climate. Read more about our DEIA programs and commitments.

Georgia Grziwach is a graduate student at Columbia’s School of Climate Master’s program in climate and society.


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