EPA administrator and NAACP president travel to Africa for mission promoting climate equity

Environmental Protection Agency's Michael Regan and NAACP's Derrick Johnson will go to Mozambique and Ghana to build partnerships on the continent.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will travel to Africa with NAACP President Derrick Johnson to promote climate equity, theGrio exclusively reports.

Regan, the first Black man to run the EPA, and Johnson will meet with government officials and stakeholders in Mozambique and Ghana to build partnerships and share solutions on several environmental priorities like developing clean energy and protecting clean air.

Michael Regan, EPA, theGrio.com
Then-nominee for EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, speaks at the Queen theater on Dec. 19, 2020, in Wilmington, DE. President-elect Joe Biden announced his climate and energy team that will advance an ambitious agenda to address the issues of climate change. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

“I’m excited to be going on this mission representing the Biden-Harris administration,” Regan said of the U.S. trip from Jan. 22-29. The mission will serve as the next step in President Joe Biden’s call to action at the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to expand substantive and meaningful partnerships with African countries, institutions, and people across the continent.

“President Biden has indicated that environmental justice and equity and inclusion would be a central pillar,” said Regan, who invited the NAACP’s Johnson to lean on his “rich knowledge.”

Recognizing the significance of he and Johnson being Black men representing the highest levels of the U.S. government and civic society, he added, “We both recognize what we represent as we leave the United States to go back to the continent of Africa.”

While in Ghana, Regan and Johnson will tour the home of NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois, who left the United States to live in Accra, where he died in 1963. The two leaders will also tour the Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were held before they were transported to the Americas or the Caribbean. 

Derrick Johnson (above), president of the NAACP, will travel with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan on a mission to promote climate equity. Johnson is seen in October at a golfing event in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for Play Golf Designs Inc., PGD Global)

Given the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the global Black diaspora, Regan told theGrio, it is important to “be very knowledgeable about our history.”

“We have to know where we come from and what makes us who we are, and so I’m very excited to take this trip to do a little bit more exploration for myself, both personally and professionally,” he shared. “It’s critical that we connect back to Africa and understand where we come from and recognize that there are global partnerships that we need to strengthen in order for us to excel as human beings.”

The Biden cabinet official and civil rights leader will meet with Ghanaian and Mozambican government officials and youth leaders to share resources and knowledge on how the countries and the U.S. can work together to address increasing threats of climate change and other environmental concerns such as waste disposal and mining. 

Johnson, who noted that the NAACP has an NGO status with the United Nations and has worked in the climate space for years, said the African continent’s success is tied to the success of the global community, particularly the global Black diaspora.

“Our history is tied to the diaspora, whether they are African-Caribbeans, African-Latinos, African-Brazilians, or Africans on the Continent. We are part of the human family with a distinctive history,” said Johnson. 

“The expertise that we have learned in this country, the innovation that’s in the Caribbean…the drive that you could find in Nigeria, all of those things… is unmatched.” 

He added, “We need to double down on that because…the future must be inclusive of a prospering African continent, not a future of a continent being exploited for resources or its people.”

Johnson said it’s important that the continent of Africa, like the U.S., is prepared to transition to renewable energy sources.

A solar charger is seen beside trees destroyed when a deadly cyclone hit Tica, Mozambique, in March 2019. The country is one of two that the heads of the EPA and NAACP will visit on their climate mission. (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)

“That’s a part of the conversation that we must have, not only in the African-American community here in the United States, but we have to have those conversations around the globe,” he urged.

Regan said the young people of Africa, where the average age on the continent is about 18-19 years old, will be a crucial part of the work to bring Africa into the 21st century regarding climate and environmental resilience. 

The EPA administrator will meet with youth leaders in both Ghana and Mozambique to learn about their efforts to confront climate change and environmental justice.

“Young people have been at the tip of the sphere for every major social movement in this country throughout our history, and it’s the same internationally as well,” said Regan.

The administrator has also emphasized the importance of youth engagement in the U.S., including establishing the first-ever environmental youth advisory council

Ahead of the trip to Africa, Regan announced a series of actions from the EPA, including establishing an urban air quality partnership with African cities to strengthen their capacity to manage air equality, transferring a climate adaptation software known as ARC-X that provides climate solutions, funding expertise on developing clean cookstoves and energy, and expanding an EPA-developed international guide to reduce the volume of trash entering waterways.

Regan said the Biden-Harris administration has a “recipe for success” that can be used to help African nations with environmental protections while also protecting their natural resources.

“We want to help them build that infrastructure,” he said.

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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