Minority Americans Focus on Climate Change at Department of Energy Event

From people of color recovering from Superstorm Sandy to Native Americans from Colorado coping with flooding from historic rainfall, environmental advocates brought the story of how climate change is a pressing health and wealth issue in their communities to the United States Department of Energy (DoE) headquarters this week.

Ann Marie Chishilly, Executive Director of Tribal Environmental Professionals, and Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, were among eight participants in a climate change session moderated by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Energy and Environment Program Director Danielle Deane. The panel was part of the DOE’s Minorities in Energy kickoff and its Hispanic Heritage Month celebration on Tuesday, September 24.

Some of the brightest minds in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, climate change and energy-related economic development attended the event, which was aimed at increasing minority involvement in the energy sector. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz was joined by the nation’s first African American Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), University of Maryland professor Dr. S. James Gates and other high-profile participants at the opening session.

Climate leaders meet at the DoE's Minorities in Energy kick-off.

Climate leaders meet at the DoE’s Minorities in Energy kick-off.

During the climate change panel, EnerGreen Capital Management Founder and Managing Partner Carolyn Green, a member of the Joint Center’s Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate Change and the Environment, shared the need for minorities to be able to tap into expanding green energy business opportunities not just as employees, but as owners. Entrepreneur Moses Boyd, a Founding Partner with Integrated Solutions Group, agreed, highlighting how business opportunities can unite partners of different political leanings.

Emerald Cities Collaborative Program Manager Veronica Soto said that her organization has been helping people of color in Southern California to work with smaller, minority contractors and enable those contractors to compete successfully for energy efficiency projects. Dr. Manik “Nikki” Roy, Vice President for Strategic Outreach at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, also stressed the importance of finding models that deliver both economic and climate change benefits for low income communities.

During the event, Department of Energy officials shared their commitment to identify and work with current minority leaders to mentor mid-career emerging energy leaders as part of the Minorities in Energy initiative. An event at the White House in November will build on this kick-off.

The discussion gave representatives from the DoE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an opportunity to hear suggestions for greater impact. Ideas from the discussion included deepening the engagement with communities of color by engaging grassroots organizations, as well as looking for common ground with business-oriented leaders who may be climate change skeptics but might be open to the idea of advancing business goals through technology advancements that cut costs and create jobs while helping the environment.

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