California Environmental Justice and Climate Solutions

California’s landmark AB32 cap-and-trade program is at a crossroads: many lawmakers and the State’s Governor believe a two thirds vote is needed to continue the program as a cornerstone effort towards meeting the very ambitious state target of limiting emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However, while the cap-and-trade program enjoys considerable support from the regulated community and many of the larger California NGOs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the least cost, environmental justice (EJ) organizations have been vocal in their concerns. EJ groups argue that the cap and- trade program has not produced GHG reductions in their communities nor made meaningful contributions towards mitigating conventional air and toxic emissions in those communities. Because of the substantial political power wielded by the EJ community in the state legislature, the challenge ahead is to design the best path to achieving the 40 percent reduction goal at a feasible cost and in a way that meets the goals of the EJ community and the other affected stakeholders.

Accordingly, the University of California Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Policy (CEPP), with support from the Center for Clean Air Policy, has formed a new dialogue and outreach process geared towards finding workable solutions that allow emissions trading to proceed while also addressing the core concerns of the EJ community. In addition to considering the state’s existing proposals as reflected in the California Air Resources Board’s scoping plan, the dialogue is also reviewing a broader range of policy options to meet the dual emission reduction goals, including: ways to improve the effectiveness of existing EJ programs supported through auction revenues or other funding programs; changes to existing air quality, transportation, housing and energy programs that reduce emissions; modifications to the GHG trading system and offsets programs; and alternative market-based policies.