Environmental Public Policy, Ethics and Cultural Sensitivity

One of the most pressing issues of current public policy is addressing climate change. President Biden and his Administration have developed a plan to minimize carbon emissions in the coming decades. This strategy is completely different from the course of the previous government, which focused on industrial development. However, factories and power plants create cultural injustices, as emissions and hostile environments negatively affect the health and well-being of, above all, members of racial communities. At the same time, the introduction of environmental policies can negatively affect the economic situation of residents. Thus, cultural sensitivity and ethics force the government to find a balance between addressing climate change and maintaining economic development.

The environmental agenda is currently a priority not only for European countries but also for the U.S. President Biden’s Administration is actively pursuing a plan to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 (Fact sheet, 2021). However, this direction of public policy is influenced by ethical and culturally sensitive aspects. On the one hand, the implementation of the plan will eliminate the problem of environmental racism. On the other hand, focusing on this issue can negatively affect the economic well-being of members of racial communities who risk losing job opportunities. Implementing an environmental public policy involves finding a balance between economic growth and climate measures to ensure sustainable development and cultural justice for members of racial minorities.

Currently, sustainability and the environment are a priority focus of work for policymakers. In the final debate before the Presidential Election on October 22, 2020, Joe Biden stated that “climate change, climate warming, global warming is an existential threat to humanity” (Presidential debate, 2020). The climate plan proposed by Biden calls for a 100% clean energy economy and zero emissions by 2050 (Fact sheet, 2021). The Administration has also rejoined the Paris Agreement and established the National Climate Task Force, which is currently working towards the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50-52% by 2030 (Fact sheet, 2021). However, the plan emphasizes that the work on the environmental agenda requires significant financial investments from the government.

In this regard, society may have a number of concerns, which in particular are formed by cultural characteristics and existing ethics. Verma (2020) offers the concept of environmental ethics, which implies “a moral consideration of human approach to natural resources and believes that human as well as other living creatures as parts of society” (p. 3). This term defines the degree of responsibility that society has in relation to climate and the value that prevention of change has for it. Dang (2020) examines, using three different countries as an example, how cultural characteristics influence the formation of environmental public participation, as well as the effectiveness of the implementation of associated public policies. Huber et al. (2019) state that “policy instruments perceived as effective, fair, and unintrusive achieve higher levels of public support” (p.1). The information presented makes it possible to identify that cultural and ethical aspects can influence how citizens perceive the government’s initiative to address climate change.

The main difficulty in prioritizing environmental issues and sustainability in public policy can arise from economic concerns. In response to Biden’s statement, Trump emphasized during the debate that implementing the plan could cost each family $ 6,500 (Presidential debate, 2020). Western culture implies an anthropocentric view of the world and the economy, which includes justifying the exploitation of natural resources to ensure human well-being (Basumatary, 2020). During the debate, it was also noted that a community with a lower income, which is most often represented by people of color, is more likely to live in a number of c gas and oil plants (Presidential debate, 2020). This statement is supported by research, which also notes the negative impact on the health of residents (Johnston & Cushing, 2020). Trump notes that the development of factories and plants that operate on natural fossil fuels provide economic prosperity for the Hispanic, Asian and Black communities (Presidential debate, 2020). However, this situation also leads to a contradiction, which lies in need to ensure cultural justice for members of society.

Ensuring human well-being involves addressing many of the factors that maintain a standard of living. The existing income and healthcare access disparities, as well as the prevalence of members of racial minorities as workers on power plants, creates a kind of environmental racism (Johnston & Cushing, 2020). Residential segregation results in members of racial minorities being harmed more by environmental pollution and possible natural disasters (Johnston & Cushing, 2020). Thus, a focus on environmental public policy may have public acceptance as it addresses the issue of cultural injustice and inequality. At the same time, members of a dominant cultural group who are not directly negatively affected by climate change and carbon emissions may be concerned about the economic impact. In particular, this is relevant in a post-pandemic, when the state needs to pay increased attention to the recovery of the population and business from the consequences of SOVID-19.

Modern society is characterized by a shift in moral values ​​towards caring for not only financial but also physical well-being. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2020, Americans considered environmental and economic issues equally significant for a policy application (As economic concerns recede, 2020). This finding suggests that the current environmental policy must take into account economic factors as well. It is also important for the environmental agenda to highlight opportunities for economic growth and job creation. A sustainable system must be able to provide those members of racial communities who are exposed to adverse environmental factors with economic resources. Without this balance, maintaining cultural justice and equality is impossible due to the creation of economic disparities.

It is also important that modern society is built on industry and consumption. Focusing on an environmental agenda, including significant investment in infrastructure and the transition to greener energy sources, can result in productivity losses due to restrictions and regulations (OECD, 2021). In terms of ethics and cultural sensitivity, these changes can lead to a deterioration in the financial situation of racial minorities, as well as to the impoverishment of minority communities. Thus, when implementing the environmental public policy of the Biden administration, it is also necessary to work to support the economic development of these population groups. The emphasis on education, health, and job opportunities can, in turn, inhibit the effectiveness of environmental plans.

The implementation of the environmental public policy plan is fraught with a number of contradictions that need attention. Ethics forces policymakers to think not only about the financial but also the physical well-being of residents. Within the framework of cultural sensitivity, it is important for the Administration not only to provide income for members of racial communities but also to take care of their health. Thus, addressing the environmental agenda is associated, among other things, with the need to find a balance between various social spheres, which does not allow one to fully focus on the problem.

Annotated Bibliography

As economic concerns recede, environmental protection rises on the public’s policy agenda. (2020). Pew Research Center.

This resource provides data on a 2020 survey of the U.S. population regarding public policy priorities. The data presented by the researchers provide important insights into what problems residents are most concerned about. In particular, the resource allows us to assess the importance of the environmental agenda for Americans and how the transformation of their perception reflects current policymaking efforts.

Basumatary, D. (2020). Relevance of environmental ethics and the need of an environmental medicine to encounter potential health issues. European Journal of Molecular & Clinical Medicine, 7(3), 3949-3955.

This article discusses environmental ethics, as well as how its perception has a direct impact on the well-being of individuals and society. In particular, the author examines how specific measures taken by the government and environmental policies influence the formation of ethical principles. This article is valuable for this paper as it allows a comprehensive study of the concept of environmental ethics and assessment of its importance in the context of public policy application.

Dang, W. (2020). How culture shapes environmental public participation: Case studies of China, the Netherlands, and Italy. Journal of Chinese Governance, 5(3), 290-412.

The article presents a study of the cultural characteristics of three countries, including China, Italy, and the Netherlands, in relation to environmental public participation. The study emphasizes that the various characteristics that are inherent in a particular culture influence the government and residents of the environmental agenda as a direction of public policy. For this paper, the article presents evidence that dominant culture has an impact on the implementation of climate change measures.

Fact sheet: President Biden sets 2030 greenhouse gas pollution reduction target aimed at creating good-paying union jobs and securing U.S. leadership on clean energy technologies. (2021). The White House.

This primary source provides information on what specific measures are being taken by the presidential Administration as part of the environmental public policy. For this study, the resource is valuable, as it allows one to assess which factors influence the formation of the policy.

Huber, R. A., Wicki, M. L., & Bernauer, T. (2019). Public support for environmental policy depends on beliefs concerning effectiveness, intrusiveness, and fairness. Environmental Politics, 29(4), 649-673.

The authors of the article assess the attitude of the public towards the environmental policy instruments presented by the Swiss government. The survey results lead to the conclusion that unintrusive, fair, and efficient instruments are more successful when implemented. This article is valuable for this paper as it allows us to assess the role of both perceptions in the development and implementation of public policy.

Johnston, J., & Cushing, L. (2020). Chemical exposures, health and environmental justice in communities living on the fenceline of industry. Current Environmental Health Reports, 7(1), 48-57.

The report presents an analysis of the impact of the industry on residents living near facilities. In particular, the authors emphasize that low-income communities of colored people are more likely to be negatively influenced, which is a stressor for them and forms a factor of environmental injustice. This article is extremely valuable for the present study, as it offers an analysis of the direct relationship between environmental public policy and the quality of life of racial minorities.

OECD. (2021). Assessing the economic impacts of environmental policies.

The report presents data on the efficiency of environmental policies on emissions, as well as the influence on the productivity of companies. The data emphasize that well-designed policies do not have significant negative impacts on investment, employment, and productivity. However, they can benefit some industries and businesses while disadvantaging others. These findings are important for this paper, as they allow you to assess the potential dangers of implementing environmental public policies.

Presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (2020). The Commission on Presidential Debates.

This primary resource provides a transcript of the Trump-Biden final debates before the presidential election. The information presented in the source not only allows considering the existing focus of environmental public policy proposed by Biden but also an alternative point of view. In particular, this transcript provides valuable information about the difficulties associated with the implementation of the environmental plan and its potential impact on members of racial minorities.

Verma, A. (2020). Sustainable development and environmental ethics. International Journal on Environmental Sciences, 10(1), 1-5.

This article introduces the concept of environmental ethics and also discusses the key measures associated with it. In particular, the researcher notes that the basis of environmental ethics is the shift from an anthropocentric to an eco-centric world. Ensuring equal access to resources for all, inclusive development and education, and the elimination of hunger and poverty are key factors in establishing this concept. For public policy research, this term represents a framework that allows one to evaluate a broader context.

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