It is widely agreed that no federal climate policy will have a good shot at passing through Congress until after the elections this coming fall 2008. This is why it is crucial that the Environmental Justice and Climate Justice (EJ/CJ) movements mobilize, unite on a single legislative goal, and lobby the heck out of our incumbent and incoming representatives. The most promising piece of climate legislation so far, the Lieberman-Warner bill, died in the Senate this time around. However, don’t be too disappointed, EJ/CJ folks. The Lieberman-Warner bill violates at least two of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change (EJCC) Initiative’s Principles for Just Climate Change Policies in the U.S.:
#2. Protect and Empower Vulnerable Individuals and Communities
#3. Ensure Just Transition for Workers and Communities
The environmental racism and environmental justice frameworks have been largely ignored in the media, academic, and policy perspectives so far; especially with regards to how the federal government has dealt with hurricane Katrina. The gulf coast is still, to this day in 2008, recovering from the devastating impacts of the worst hurricane season in recent history; hence, they are also still in need of EJ/CJ organizational support and a strong allyship base from neighboring states and fellow EJ/CJ activists.
“Without the vigilance of these environmental justice activists in the rebuilding effort, the clean-up and redevelopment of New Orleans will not include perspectives that prioritize environmental justice and community health concerns… In June , the [EPA] announced that it was removing race and class from special consideration in its definition of environmental justice, …which mandated that all federal agencies generate agency-specific strategies to address the disproportionate pollution experienced by minority communities, and set a controversial and abbreviated public comment period, ending just 10 days before Katrina hit… Thus, the moment that the concept of environmental racism is being most attacked, is paradoxically the most crucial time to bring environmental justice back into the center of the analysis of Katrina in particular, and of how the health and environments of communities of color in the United States in general are fundamentally shaped by race and class considerations…” (http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/Sze/)
So, EJ and CJ folks, let’s ask ourselves: Which kind of policy can we feasibly unite behind to incorporate justice into the discussions happening on Capitol Hill? Redefining Progress and the EJCC Initiative recommend the following, among other things: “Polluter Pays” Policy; Modified Cap And Auction Policy; Policy That Returns Revenues To Communities; and Wealth-Building Community Climate Justice Policy. So far, the EJCC has spotted one bill that looks promising:
“Congressman Edward Markey has announced …[the bill] Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, or iCAP, [which] boasts better targets – 85% by 2050 – and essentially 100% auction of its credits – starting at 94% of total allowances in 2012 and reaching 100% in 2020. Not to mention, iCAP returns over half of auction proceeds to low- and middle-income households through rebates and tax credits, investing the remaining half in programs including clean energy tech, energy efficiency and green jobs training and assistance.” (https://climatejusticenow.wordpress.com/)
The future of our world could depend on this legislative moment—leading up to and following up after the elections in fall 2008. Let’s utilize the momentum surrounding the Lieberman-Warner discussions, continue to strategize our ideals, and form a strong coalition to encourage our representatives to act for a just climate policy now.