Cap and Trade Must Change

Letty Bautista

Cap and trade was passed during the 1990s in order to address the issues associated with acid rain. This program established a cap on the amount industries get to pollute by giving out a certain amount of credits. Industries in essence can use up all the credits they were given, or if they do not pollute as much, they can sell their credits off to an industry that pollutes more.

However, there is a major flaw regarding this system, and it is something that stems from the racist history of the environmental movement.

Historically, the environmental movement was composed of white people trying to preserve and conserve “nature” like national parks. For instance, many white men like, John Muir and Aldo Leopold, were elite racist men trying to preserve national forest for people like themselves. To this day majority of the people involved in the environmental movement are predominately white. This can also be seen today in environmental projects, non-profits, and organizations. As a result, policies are often passed that do not take into consideration environmental justice issues. Since people of color make up the minority in these institutions, their voices cannot be heard and their concerns are not accounted for. The environmental justice movement seeks to address this and shed light onto issues that impact low-income people of color. Environmental justice focuses on addressing environmental racism, which can be explained as the disproportionate exposure to pollution and hazardous waste between white affluent people and low-income people of color. Many studies have stated that the number one indicator of where a hazardous waste site will be located or placed can be determined by race.

One of the policies that exacerbate environmental racism issues is the cap-and-trade program we have implemented today.

In 2017, California passed AB 398, which extended the cap-and-trade program until 2030. This bill was passed in accordance with AB 617, which does not effectively protect communities of color, because it allows industries to continue polluting and does not provide effective funding. According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 57% of the facilities subject to the cap-and-trade program are located within one-half mile of a disadvantaged community. A disadvantaged community that is always populated with African

American and Latinx communities. Moreover, AB 398, prohibits local air pollution districts from setting further regulations on CO2, which affects environmental justice communities given that 52% of facilities have a high average of local greenhouse gas emissions. In essence, although the cap-and-trade program tries to regulate the amount of pollution emitted into the air overall, it does not take into consideration the tradeoffs. By allowing industries to be able to trade credits it allows for the concentration of pollution in certain communities while taking the burden off of others.

In order for us to help communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution and hazardous waste we must make changes within how the policy is implemented. First, the California Air Resources Board must prohibit certain sources from purchasing allowances when establishing price ceilings. In the United States, race is the number one indicator of where a polluting facility is located. Therefore, by creating geographic grading zones and determining who cannot purchase allowances, you will protect environmental justice communities. Secondly, a study conducted by the University of California Irvine, demonstrates the inequalities in the disbursement of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds. Therefore, the California Air Resources Board must include environmental justice communities’ input, when deciding where to allocate Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds revenue, as stated in AB 617. The California Air Resources Board should implement these strict greenhouse gas rules and regulations in their next scoping update plan. Granting that higher restrictions of emissions may increase price for consumers, which will largely affect low-income communities, if funds from Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds are imposed properly, that revenue can be allocated towards subsidizing costs for low income consumers.

The most effective way to solve this issue would be to create a new policy and

restructure the system in terms that make things more equitable. However since this policy has already been passed and is set to take place for ten years, the most adequate solution is making a policy recommendation that is feasible and within California Air Resources Board’s scope. The solutions stated above suggests how AB 398 should be implemented, as it is currently, in order to mitigate further burden on communities of color.

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