RBGND: The National Black Climate Summit and the National Black Climate Agenda

(A summary of the National Black Climate Summit, you can watch here)

The Red Black and Green New Deal (RBGND) is an initiative of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) whose agenda proposes immediate actions policymakers, corporations, and people can do to fortify Black people—especially those most marginalized, such as disabled, chronically ill, transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex people— from the uniquely racist practices of the fossil-fuel industry. This initiative will transform and drive a national discussion meant to: 

  • Address the impact of climate on Black lives, 
  • Spark action toward the development of equitable solutions directly related to Black communities, 
  • Build and expand a network of climate supporters and advocates for immediate action, and 
  • Develop and introduce federal and local policy that protects and invests resources into the Black community to address the climate crisis.

National project lead, Colette Pichon Battle was inspired to become involved in climate justice work because of the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on her personal life and community. National organizing lead, Valencia Gunder became involved because of her roots in Miami, which is ground zero for sea-level rise in the world. Battle and Gunder describe the fight for climate and racial justice using an arch and pillars analogy, based on understanding the framework of extraction, awakening, and liberation. The arch is the movement as a whole, and the pillars are the parts of the plan that will allow the movement to progress and reach its goals. The pillars are water, energy, land, labor, economy, and democracy. The framework of extraction refers to the philosophy of extraction that has had harmful effects on the Earth and its people since the very beginning. Similar to how Black people were extracted from Africa to be used to build the wealth of this country, fossil fuels are being extracted from the Earth and used in ways that are ultimately harmful to the Earth. Awakening refers to people fighting against injustices and realizing that our environment is as important as our jobs, income, and health. Through ending the philosophy of extraction, using our awakening, and knowing that we are a part of a longer trajectory of struggle, we fight for liberation. 

Environmental Justice

In the context of American racism, environmental justice can be used as a conceptual lens that analyzes the systems that expose disparate treatment, cumulative impacts of toxic waste, and energy generation and transportation. Although the mantra “I can’t breathe” is most often associated with police violence, it can also be used to call out corporations in the extractive and polluting industries. To advance a vision for Black Lives, air, water, and land pollution must be stopped, remediated, and prohibited. We must root in the right to breathe, stop polluting Black communities, and invest in cleaning up Black communities.

Climate Disaster

Air quality, water access, food systems, shelter, land, and mental and physical health are just some of the areas of life that are negatively impacted by human-accelerated climate change. Two separate globally-reviewed and scientifically-based reports have said that we have less than a decade before the climate crisis reaches a point of no return. To address these claims, we must make a declaration of climate and racial urgency, federal disaster preparation must be rooted in equity for the frontline communities, legal protections must be put in place for frontline leadership, and we must update laws and policies to protect those forcibly relocating due to sea-level rise and climate change. 

International and foreign policy

The climate crisis affects everyone globally but was not caused by everyone. This means that solutions must be rooted in accountability from the Global North and leadership from the Global South. International debt must be canceled for the next ten years at least to focus on these solutions. The rights of Indigenous peoples must be protected, U.S. visas for people migrating due to climate disasters and impacts must be mandatory, and there must be an immediate divestment from the use of fossil fuels and investment in community-controlled, justly-sourced, sustainable energy solutions. 

The Plan
  • Honor the water
  • Democratize energy
  • Free the land
  • Re-imagine and re-define labor
  • End extractive economies and restore stolen Black capital
  • Advance democracy for the people and the planet

The climate crisis transforms life-giving water into one of the biggest threats to Black lives. Climate change is causing extreme imbalances from increased flooding, torrential rains, ice storms, and rising sea levels, to drought-like conditions. As a result, major cities in the U.S. and around the world are struggling to provide water to their populations. More than 2 million Americans live without access to safe drinking water and sanitation. 


We want reliable sustainable energy that does not damage the environment or produce harmful impacts on marginalized communities. Our approach should be to divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable renewable energy infrastructures. Our government should be a proponent and facilitator of investments in all forms of sustainable renewable energy. 


Public lands and natural resources, Black communities, as well as the lands we occupy must be protected and prepared for a new climate reality. 


The climate crisis is highlighting disparities in health, poverty, education, and worker rights. These systemic issues prevent marginalized communities from preparing for the changes happening now. Our agricultural and domestic workers need to be protected from this exclusionary system. Black and indigenous people want the same access to advancement as anyone else. We want a fair wage that allows us to afford healthcare and to prepare ourselves for climate disasters that are becoming more frequent and more extreme. A thriving, healthy, and safe community and families are the fruits of our labor.


Black and Indigenous communities suffer the most and benefit the least from the use of fossil fuels. Disparities in income, education, healthcare, and more have unveiled the long-held realities that systemic racism has led to a disproportionate impact of climate on communities of color. While these disparities are threats to our survival, climate change is a threat multiplier that exacerbates the complex set of issues that marginalized communities already face. Climate injustice is the birth from this toxic blend of overlapping realities. 


We need a fair system that prioritizes nor only our civil rights, but our human rights. These include the right to vote in a free and fair election and the right to be involved in any policy decisions that impact our community. The impact of climate change has highlighted the failure of our government to protect the most vulnerable. Too often, these communities are disproportionately black, brown and indigenous peoples. Our system of government should work for all its people. Our government should be proponents of and facilitators of investments in all forms of sustainable, renewable energy. 


Because black communities are the most impacted by climate change, any conversation about climate should center black lives. This is why the Movement for Black Lives has created the Red, Black, and Green New Deal initiative. We will not sacrifice Black lives or accept false solutions that perpetuate unjust social and economic systems. Climate justice is racial justice.


You can read the Red, Black, and Green New Deal Black Climate Agenda here.

Every fourth Thursday, EcoFaith Leaders have committed to joining the Red, Black, and Green New Deal Ally Briefing starting at 8:45 am PDT. To learn more and join us for the next meeting, please visit http://www.ecofaithrecovery.org/rbgndallymeeting/

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An Introduction to the National Black Climate Summit and the National Black Climate Agenda by EcoFaith Intern Kira Saito