Take Action to Support Alternatives to Cap and Trade.
The next step is to contact Governor Jerry Brown, and tell him to stop cap and trade and support a carbon tax. Call Brown at (916) 445-2841 (9 am to 5 pm) or e-mail the governor's office.
California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) is an important step toward addressing climate change. However, when it passed we were disappointed that it included setting up a cap-and-trade program. There are number of serious problems with this model. The European Union's first cap-and-trade system actually produced windfall profits for polluters, and failed to seriously reduce emissions! See below to learn more.
Environmental justice organizations sued the state over cap and trade, and forced officials to look at stronger alternatives. A stronger climate plan would combine two of the ideas identified by the California Air Resources Board:
Carbon Tax. This is a much more transparent approach to pricing carbon. Also, the revenues go to the state, which can use it to close the budget gap, re-fund our public transportation systems, schools, and social services, and invest in green energy. We the People need that money more than Chevron does — make polluters pay!
Regulate specific pollution sources. To ensure we clean up the air in the most polluted areas, combine a carbon tax with strict enforcement of clean air laws with the biggest polluters, such as oil refineries.
When the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, came to a grinding halt due to San Francisco Superior Court’s March 17, 2011 ruling that it violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), it came as a shock to industry and environmentalists alike. It would not be surprising if leading-edge environmental legislation like AB32 were to draw fire from climate-change deniers and oil interests. Indeed, the most recent attempt to derail the law, last year’s Proposition 23, was pushed by two out-of-state oil companies. Voters, mobilized in large part by grassroots climate justice groups, roundly defeated that attempt.
But the lawsuit against California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) regulatory framework for AB32 was undertaken by the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)—two groups that advocate on behalf of “frontline and fence-line environmental justice communities.” They represent low-income people and people of color who live, work and play in the shadow of refineries in Wilmington and Richmond, in the agribusiness fields of the Central Valley, near the waste dumps of Kettleman City, and in other California communities plagued by industrial pollution.
More surprising still, CARB’s regulations are raising hackles among another unlikely constituency: indigenous peasant farmers in the remote jungle of southeastern Mexico.
A lawsuit brought by environmental justice groups has put AB 32 on hold. The plaintiffs are from communities located near agricultural and industrial operations and say that “trading” carbon credits will generate more pollution near their homes. The court’s March 17 decision will require California Air Resources Board (CARB) to go back and look at alternatives to the cap-and-trade plan, analyzing options, such as directly regulating polluters. While there has been quite a bit of coverage on the impacts of the “trade” portion of the program on communities located near greenhouse gas emitters, few seem to have been aware that the program also has implications for communities that live near the “offset” locations that aim to reduce these emissions. —STC
California timber firms could emerge as big winners in the state’s fight against global warming, earning millions of dollars through the sale of carbon credits under the set of rules approved by the Air Resources Board on December 16, 2010.
As part of the now stalled program, the new regulations from California Air Resources Board (CARB) would allow forest offsets that utilize an industry practice known as “even-age management.” Timber industry experts say this practice of cutting a large tract of trees all at once mimics nature. Some environmental advocates call it “clear-cutting,” noting that this kind of management can actually increase carbon dioxide emitted at the logging site.
Ignoring the carbon emissions that come from these kinds of projects “makes it much more likely to paint a clear-cutting project as carbon-[reducing] positive than a carbon negative,” said Brian Nowicki, California policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. His organization is one of many that object to these rules.
So far, at least 37 individual projects, which could employ these techniques, have been registered for carbon offset credits. These projects span the country in 11 states—from Washington state to New Hampshire. California has the most, with nine projects, followed by South Carolina with eight, and Maine with six.* However, only one project using “improved forest management” has actually received carbon credits, totaling 9,248 tons offset from 2007 to 2009. The Lompico Forest Carbon Project is located in Santa Cruz County, California, developed by the Sempervirens Fund.
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Frank Lopez: How are the plaintiffs going to ensure that the criteria chosen to evaluate the alternatives are going to be more equitable?
Alegria De La Cruz: Part of what is exciting to us about being able to open this [up], is that there’s a lot more information available around the failures of trading processes in other areas, but also specifically in California. CEQA doesn’t require specific criteria to be used when you’re doing alternatives analysis, but because this is going to be such a highly-watched big-deal process, it is going to put the impetus on CARB to make sure that they are doing something that’s defensible.
Because the judge was so focused on the real failures of CARB to do a good job in looking at an alternative to cap-and-trade, it provides a lot of leeway to address the things that he raised in the order and make sure that CARB is doing that.
Lopez: Is there an alternative that CRPE prefers to cap-and-trade?
De La Cruz: Anything.
Lopez: Anything but cap-and-trade?
De La Cruz: Any time you allow “flexibility” or the “market” to determine the best way forward, that’s when we really see environmental justice communities suffering, no matter where they are located.
At our own advocacy organization, outside of this litigation, the communities that we represent are largely in the Central Valley. We see a lot of challenges to CARB’s lack of regulation of the agricultural industry. [Our communities are located near] oil refineries near Bakersfield and in the South Kern [County] area, so we’re looking at industrial regulation.