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California’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee opposes carbon trading

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In August 2016, California passed a new Senate Bill: SB 32. It’s named after California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (or AB 32). AB 32 required California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

SB 32 goes much further, by adding the following sentence to AB 32:

This bill would require the state board to ensure that statewide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

California is on target to meet the AB 32 target. But to reach the new 2030 target, emissions reductions will have to accelerate to about 10 times the current rate.

California’s environmental justice movement pushed another bill, AB 197, and SB 32 was conditional on AB 197 being passed. Both bills passed. AB 197 requires California achieves “direct emission reductions” as opposed to offsetting its emissions through carbon markets.

California’s Air Resources Board has an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee. At a meeting in February 2016, the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee adopted a statement in support of reforming California’s carbon pricing scheme. The statement opposes the Air Resources Board’s proposals to expand cap and trade, because,

this program will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the pace called for by the international scientific community, it will not result in a shift to clean and sustainable energy sources, it will support and enrich the state’s worst polluters, it will fail to address the existing and future inequitable burden of pollution, it will deprive communities of the ability to protect and enhance their communities, and because if our state joins regional or international trading schemes it will further create incentives for carbon offset programs that harm communities in California, the region, the country, and developing nations around the world.

As Danny Cullenward and Michael Wara point out in an article on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website, California cannot implement a new carbon pricing scheme (whether based on carbon markets or a carbon tax) without two-thirds approval in the legislature.

Cullenward and Wara write that,

The recent positions taken by environmental justice advocates illustrate an important split with traditional environmental organizations in California, whose power base is concentrated in wealthy coastal communities and whose advocacy generally supports the positions of the Air Resources Board. In contrast, environmental justice communities are concentrated in low-income urban neighborhoods and rural agricultural areas in the state’s Central Valley. Getting to two-thirds support for a new carbon pricing initiative requires a broader coalition than can be assembled from the usual coastal districts. As a result, it will be critical for policy makers and climate advocates to better accommodate the concerns of the environmental justice community in order to maintain a price on carbon in California.

Here is the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee statement in full:

The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee
Declaration in Support of Carbon Pricing Reform in California

1. Whereas, the climate system of the planet and the energy choices we make are inextricably linked to a looming ecological and social catastrophe; and

2. Whereas, the United States and all other countries of the world face a moment of great promise and great peril regarding our energy production and use, including: 1) our overdependence on fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal; 2) the production and use of bio-fuels with dubious sustainability attributes; and 3) the resurgence of domestic and international nuclear power development; and

3. Whereas, Asian, Black, Latino, and Native American communities in the United States, as well as indigenous and poor people around the world, disproportionately bear the negative economic, environmental, and health impacts of the fossil fuel economy at every stage of its life cycle including its exploration, extraction, production, refining, distribution, consumption, and disposal of its waste; and

4. Whereas, global climate change caused by burning fossil fuels, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, and associated co-pollutants into our oceans, air, soil, and vegetation jeopardizes the planet’s ability to maintain a livable climate and causes grave health problems in poor communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities around the world; and

5. Whereas, the international scientific community predicts that climate change will cause great human suffering, the brunt of which will be borne by the world’s poor, developing nations, disenfranchised indigenous communities, the infirm, and peoples of color that have been historically discriminated against at global, national, and local levels; and

6. Whereas, the best available science indicates that the planet is warming more rapidly than we understood when the Kyoto Accord was ratified and that reductions in greenhouse gases must be undertaken more quickly and with greater urgency than previously recognized; and

7. Whereas, economic globalization steers international commodity markets to manufacture and privatize the “right” to dispose of greenhouse gases and their co-pollutants into the air, oceans, soil, vegetation and human bodies and is in direct conflict with the true human rights of people and respect for our planet; and

8. Whereas, his Holiness Pope Francis believes that the “strategy of buying and selling ‘carbon credits’ can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide . . . [and] in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require”; and

9. Whereas, carbon trading is undemocratic because it allows entrenched polluters, market designers, and commodity traders to determine whether and where to reduce greenhouse gases and co-pollutant emissions without allowing impacted communities or governments to participate in those decisions; and

10. Whereas, the political power of the major global polluters has resulted in a carbon trading scheme in California that prevents the public from access to essential facility-specific compliance data, allows gaming of the system by market participants through such practices as resource shuffling, allows for excessive use of out-of-state offsets, and lacks meaningful penalties for failure to comply; and

11. Whereas, a recent study of California cap and trade found that many industry sectors increased in-state emissions, environmental justice communities are disproportionately impacted by climate polluters, excessive use of offsets denies environmental justice communities the benefits of on-site reductions, and validates the concerns raised by the environmental justice community after the passage of Assembly Bill 32; and

12. Whereas, revenue from the auction of allowances has provided important funding for greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects, and the environmental justice movement has secured a portion of that revenue to benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities throughout California; and

13. Whereas, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 32 in 2016, which enacted the most stringent climate reduction mandate in the world, requiring a forty percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030; and

14. Whereas, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 197 in 2016, which enacted substantial reform to benefit environmental justice communities, including a mandate to the Air Resources Board to prioritize direct emissions reductions in the strategy to achieve the 2030 target; and

15. Whereas, the California Air Resources Board has drafted a 2030 Target Scoping Plan that does not reflect best practices in research or serve the interests of poor communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities in California and around the world; and

16. Whereas, greenhouse gases from fossil fuels will be substantially reduced only through a transition to greater energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies that do not rely on fossil fuels; and

17. Whereas, capturing energy from the wind, sun, ocean, and heat stored within the Earth’s crust builds the health and self-reliance of people and our communities, protects the planet, creates jobs, and expands the global economy; and

18. Whereas, greenhouse gases from agricultural sources must be reduced substantially in order to achieve the 2030 target, especially methane emitted by liquefied manure at factory farms; and

19. Whereas, sustainable agricultural practices such as pasture-based carbon sequestration presents the opportunity to utilize regenerative farming practices which benefit the climate and rural environmental justice communities; and

20. Whereas, global energy transformation is the politically unifying and inclusive principle that affirms the rights of all people – including the poor, women, rural and indigenous communities – to have access to affordable and sustainable energy and the enhanced quality of life that such access affords; and

21. Whereas, placing an appropriate price on carbon provides further incentives to decrease greenhouse gas emissions while generating revenue.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee DECLARES that the California Cap and Trade system is inequitable and does not reflect the principles of environmental justice; and

The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee FURTHER DECLARES that we will oppose at every turn all efforts to extend the California Cap and Trade system in California beyond 2020; and

The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee FURTHER DECLARES that our demands for real changes in the way we make and use energy will not be silenced by promises of money or token adjustments to the fundamentally flawed trading and offsets approach.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee FURTHER DECLARES that it supports a carbon tax, used in combination with direct emissions reductions, as a policy to replace the revenue generating component of Cap and Trade and to benefit environmental justice communities, support clean energy development, fund a just workforce transition to clean energy, invest in communities’ capacity and infrastructure to adapt to climate change, and return a substantial portion to the public so that Californians, especially low-income residents, receive financial support during the transition to a clean energy economy.

 
BE IT THEREFORE, RESOLVED, that the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee stands with communities around the world in opposition to carbon trading and offset use and the continued over reliance on fossil fuels; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee will support conservation, regulatory, and other measures to address greenhouse gases only if they directly and significantly reduce emissions, require the shift away from use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, and do not cause or exacerbate the pollution burden of poor communities of color in California, as well as in the United States and developing nations around the world; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee will oppose efforts by our state government to extend Cap and Trade, because this program will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the pace called for by the international scientific community, it will not result in a shift to clean and sustainable energy sources, it will support and enrich the state’s worst polluters, it will fail to address the existing and future inequitable burden of pollution, it will deprive communities of the ability to protect and enhance their communities, and because if our state joins regional or international trading schemes it will further create incentives for carbon offset programs that harm communities in California, the region, the country, and developing nations around the world.

 

THEREFORE, The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee affirms our solidarity with the California Environmental Justice Movement, poor, and indigenous people around the world.

 


PHOTO Credit: Protest against carbon trading and REDD in Sacramento, April 2016, Dan Bacher.
 

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  1. this is such an important set of points that people in other states, and indeed globally, need to understand in order to stop supporting dead end corporate strategies like cap and trade and carbon tax

  2. This is great news! and hopefully it should be understood as a relevant negative signal for carbon markets, since the lack of social acceptance could lead to a fall in carbon prices. Let´s hope that the California´s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee will formally and publically oppose the REDD-plus mechanism for it is one of the worst carbon trading compensation schemes ever imagined