Capitol Alert

Kevin de León brings climate change appeal to California Latinos

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, drives off in a Toyota Prius at the Capitol launch of a clean car trade-in program on May 27, 2015.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, drives off in a Toyota Prius at the Capitol launch of a clean car trade-in program on May 27, 2015. The Sacramento Bee file

With California’s environmental movement derided by critics as elitist and overwhelmingly white, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is working to broaden its appeal.

Joined by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, De León appeared on Univision Los Angeles on Sunday to make the case to Spanish-speaking audiences.

“Polls have shown that Latinos are very conscious of the consequences of climate change and want politicians to act as quickly as possible,” the Los Angeles Democrat said in Spanish.

De León has pushed to include more poor and minority residents in California’s efforts to combat climate change. Since authoring a bill in 2012 to set aside a quarter of cap-and-trade revenues for disadvantaged communities, he has been promoting programs like a clean car trade-in and rooftop solar panels for low-income families.

On Univision, he argued that Latinos are disproportionately bearing the brunt of environmental degradation – from poor city-dwellers who live by industrial plants spewing toxic chemicals into the air they breathe to immigrant farm workers in the Central Valley suffering from California’s historic drought.

“The most vulnerable, the outcasts, those below, will be the most affected in the end,” de León said.

He also highlighted two recent events that could be of particular interest to California Latinos, now the state’s largest demographic group: a recent trip by lawmakers to Mexico (which he called “our neighbor, our ally, our brother, our friend”) to discuss cooperation on climate change, among other issues, and the Pope’s controversial encyclical, in which he appealed for swift action to address global warming.

“The papal encyclical is a powerful document,” de León said. “It’s a document of love – love for our planet, love for our children.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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