President Biden signed executive actions tied to combating climate change, including elevating climate change as a national security concern. USA TODAY
The strong support for the environment and climate action among Latinos continues a trend that has been building for years.
With the new Congress seated and the Biden administration in place, Latino voters will play a pivotal role in setting the national agenda on economic, immigration, health and environmental issues facing our communities.
If nothing else, the 2020 election showcased how Latinos have solidified their position as a potent political force around the nation. And while Latinos supported candidates from both parties and hold disparate positions on some issues, when it comes to environmental matters, data shows they are nearly universally aligned.
A recent survey conducted by EDF Action and Latino Decisions found that the environment is a unifying message, particularly when it comes to finding ways to power our economy out of the COVID-19 recession.
The survey found strong support for protecting drinking water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also found strong support for policies that will help combat climate change, protect our environment and strengthen our economy.
In fact, 81% of Latinos believe it’s very important or extremely important for the country to make long-term investments in wind and solar energy. An even larger segment of respondents, 84%, said that it’s very important or extremely important for the U.S to make long-term investments in green infrastructure.
The strong support for the environment and climate action among Latinos continues a trend that has been building for years. For example, Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication found in 2017 that more than three of four Latinos were concerned about the impact of global warming and climate change.
The reasons for the widespread support on environmental issues and an economy tethered more tightly to environmental policies are multi-faceted.
Pandemic drove huge job losses
First, the coronavirus pandemic has undermined the financial foundation of Latino communities across the country with a high rate of job loss. According to the Pew Research Center, the coronavirus pandemic, “has significantly harmed the finances of U.S. Hispanics,” leading to a double digit unemployment rate, peaking in April at 18.5%.
Second, Latino voters see an opportunity to tackle two important problems facing their communities ‘— climate change and unemployment. The Latino Decisions poll revealed that Latinos who have suffered job loss during the pandemic and make under $50,000 a year are more likely to support our government not only investing but prioritizing commonsense clean energy and green infrastructure solutions.
High demand for cleaner communities
Third, Latinos are demanding healthier communities. They recognize that dirty power plants are a major source of air, water and climate pollution and are often located in their communities. They see investing in clean energy as well as electric trucks and buses as a means of building economic security for their families and neighbors while also making their communities cleaner and healthier.
President Biden campaigned on the notion that the environment and economy are completely intertwined. This is one aspect of the incoming administration’s emerging priorities that resonates deeply with the Latino constituency, whether Republican or Democrat.
Our elected officials should remember that political reality. And just in case they don’t, we will be there to remind them that we can protect our environment and power up the economy simultaneously.
Ben Monterroso is board chair of Corazón Latino, a national non-profit organization that focuses on grassroots activism in the Latino community.
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