In the coming weeks, the California legislature will vote on an unprecedented set of laws aimed at protecting our environment and fighting climate change. It’s an important step — but unless the main bill, SB 32 is amended, there will still be wide loopholes for polluters to keep spewing greenhouse gases and pollutants in poor communities, Latino communities, and communities of color.1,2
The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Fran Pavley, is clearly trying to do the right thing. But California’s “cap and trade” system allows rich corporate polluters to buy their way out of emissions reductions. It’s a reality that even Pope Francis has vociferously criticized.3 If our elected representatives hear from enough of us, we’ll make sure that they strengthen SB 32 and don’t leave behind working class communities and people of color.4 SB 32 must be amended to specifically protect our communities.
As California develops the next generation of climate policies, it will chart a course for our families, businesses, and government agencies that will entail massive public investments and resources.5 We have an unprecedented opportunity to create a climate model that not only tackles the climate change crisis, but does so in a way that elevates our values of justice and fairness. At its best, SB 32 could be a historic opportunity to meet the challenge of climate change in a way that fully embodies the value of justice and fairness.
It’s unquestionably a good thing that Pope Francis made an urgent call to protect our climate. And while ignoring his vision to elevate environmental and economic justice would be wrong, sacrificing those in working class communities, Latinos, and people of color must not be an option.
Pope Francis was right in calling out the glaring limitations of Cap and Trade. While SB 32 sets out admirable goals to reduce greenhouse gas emission reductions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, key loopholes would open the door for major polluters to get away with continuing to disproportionately pollute communities of color. In its current form, SB 32, while providing critical overall climate benefits, still needs corrective measures to ensure that the most vulnerable communities are protected.
The slate of climate change legislation being proposed should prioritize a clear strategy to mitigate the decades long degradation that has plagued our communities as a result of polluters dirtying our air, water, and overall environment. We not only need to include more aggressive investments in renewable energy for disadvantaged communities, but we also need to make sure that real pollution reduction occurs for the sake of our livelihoods.
Putting the health of communities of color front and center in California’s climate legislative strategy would advance the Pope’s vision for real action on climate change — and it would be the morally right thing to do.
Thanks and ¡adelante!
— Arturo, Matt, Erick, and the rest of the Presente.org Team
P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.
1. On climate, a rough road ahead for California, KPCC, July 19, 2015
2. Pope Francis and Brown part ways on cap and trade, LA Times, July 19, 2015
3. Pope blasts California’s cap-and-trade system, SF Gate, July 18, 2014
4. Gov. Brown: Millions are suffering because of climate change, KPCC, July 21, 2015
5. California Lawmakers Introduce Major Package Of Bills To Tackle Climate Change, ClimateProgress, February 11, 2015