Latino Communities Need a Plan to Fight Climate Change and Build Green Infrastructure

As our country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear we need to build our economy back better with bold solutions — and we need to act now. Latino communities have disproportionately borne the brunt of this pandemic, becoming infected at rates higher than white Americans, and they are now facing hurdles to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, further highlighting these inequities.

With his American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden outlined his ambitious vision to revitalize our economy, providing long-term economic growth, millions of family-supporting jobs and solutions to clean up pollution and address the climate crisis. Notably, the plan commits to ensuring at least 40 percent of these climate and infrastructure investments will go to those communities that have traditionally been overburdened by pollution – largely Latino communities and other communities of color.

The AJP will put people back to work while investing in clean energy technologies like solar, wind, and battery storage. Prior to the pandemic, clean-energy jobs were already growing 70 percent faster than the economy as a whole. To build back better, investing in clean energy is essential because it will add jobs and cut down on pollution, leading to healthier, more supported communities.

Too many Americans are living with the worst effects of pollution in their communities every day. The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report found that over 135 million people are living in places with unhealthy air, and communities of color are over three times more likely than white people to be breathing the most polluted air. In fact, more than 1 in 3 Latinos is living in a county where the air doesn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s public health standards for smog.

Communities of color are also more likely to live in areas most at-risk to the climate crisis. As our climate warms and changes, extreme weather events like floods and heat waves are becoming more dangerous and frequent. The AJP will not only invest in clean-energy jobs that fight the pollution that is driving climate change, but it will also invest in climate-resilient infrastructure to help our communities now.

These investments will empower people, as demonstrated by the effectiveness that green infrastructure projects have already had in Latino communities across the country. In Arizona, Tucson’s New Hope United Methodist Church recently underwent a project to help address rainwater consistently flooding the church’s parking lot and main structure. Through the support of partners like the Watershed Management Group, Sonoran Institute, Santa Cruz Watershed Collaborative, and American Rivers, the church made the transition to green infrastructure, installing channels to guide water away from the church, replacing asphalt with rock for certain surfaces, planting trees for shade and adding a rain garden.

Efforts like New Hope’s green infrastructure project demonstrate that we can help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, protect our communities’ health, create new economic opportunities, and secure a better future for our youth. The AJP is a bold plan to invest in jobs and climate in communities across the country, and for Latinos, this could not be more essential. The time for big, bold solutions is now.


Maite Arce is the president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation and has more than 20 years of experience developing innovative outreach strategies that effectively mobilize underrepresented populations by working with faith and community-based leaders with whom she designs and executes data-driven and measurable outreach initiatives.

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