Risky Business: Cap-and-Trade, Public Health, and Environmental Justice
At the global scale, the advent of a market-based, cap-and-trade approach to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally has been met with skepticism by some observers, who raise equity-based concerns over who will bear the costs of slowing climate change. Since California’s passing of the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) in 2006, the “co-benefits” of climate policy – or health benefits that will accrue with a decline in the harmful pollutants that accompany GHGs (“co-pollutants”) – and how they relate to current patterns of environmental disparity have been added to the debate. A key concern is that while GHGs may fall statewide, the decline may not be evenly distributed, and co-benefits could wind up eluding the low-income communities and communities of color who need them most. This chapter takes an empirical look at the relationship between GHG reductions, co-pollutants, and geographic inequality in California to better understand whether cap-and-trade could actually worsen the pattern of environmental disparity. We find that there is indeed a cause for concern and offer some policy suggestions to insure that environmental justice communities are better protected.
KeywordsClimate justice Greenhouse gas emissions Cap-and-trade Distributive equity Public health
Aspects of this analysis were presented in more popular form in Pastor et al. (2010), which also provides more specific policy options for California. This research was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the conclusions and opinions are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funder. We thank Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council for kindly walking us through her earlier analysis of health impacts and Robert Vos for his assistance and comments on an earlier iteration of this work.
- Bailey, D., Knowlton, K., & Rotkin-Ellman, M. (2008). Boosting the benefits: Improving air quality and health by reducing global warming pollution in California (Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Issue Paper, June). San Francisco: NRDC.Google Scholar
- Drury, R. T., Belliveau, M. E., Kuhn, J. S., & Bansal, S. (1999). Pollution trading and environmental injustice: Los Angeles’ failed experiment in air quality policy. Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, 9(2), 231–289.Google Scholar
- Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC). (2008). Recommendations and Comments of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee on the Implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) on the Proposed Scoping Plan. http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/ejac/proposedplan-ejaccommentsfinaldec10.pdf
- Galizzi, P., Sarpong, G. A., & Herklotz, A. (2009). Sustainable development and global equity under the international climate change regime: An environmental justice critique of the Clean Development Mechanism. Presentation abstract, WE ACT’s 20th Anniversary Conference, Advancing Climate Justice: Transforming the Economy, Public Health and Our Environment, Fordham University, New York, January 29–30, 2009.Google Scholar
- Morello-Frosch, R., Pastor, M., Sadd, J., & Shonkoff, S. B. (2009). The climate gap: Inequalities in how climate change hurts Americans & how to close the gap. Los Angeles: Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California. http://college.usc.edu/pere/documents/The_Climate_Gap_Full_Report_FINAL.pdf
- Pastor, M., Morello-Frosch, R., Sadd, J., & and Scoggins, J. (2010). Minding the climate gap: What’s at stake if California’s climate law isn’t done right and right away. Los Angeles: Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California. http://dornsife.usc.edu/pere/documents/mindingthegap.pdf
- Rickenbacker, K., & Faber, D. (2009). Climate justice: A planetary emergency. Paper commissioned by WE ACT for their 20th anniversary conference, Advancing Climate Justice: Transforming the Economy, Public Health, and Our Environment, Fordham University, New York, January 29–30, 2009.Google Scholar
- Sadd, J., Pastor, M., Morello-Frosch, R., Scoggins, J., & Jesdale, B. (2011). Playing it safe: Assessing cumulative impact and social vulnerability through an environmental justice screening method in the South Coast Air Basin, California. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(5), 1441–1459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schatzki, T., & Stavins, R. N. (2009). Addressing environmental justice concerns in the design of California’s climate policy. http://www.analysisgroup.com/uploadedFiles/Publishing/Articles/Environmental_Justice.pdf