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Everyone’s got one.

…an opinion on climate change, that is.

Well, here’s ours, but it’s bolstered with facts and substantial evidence that climate change exacerbates nearly all existing inequalities.

Find full report here. http://www.ejcc.org/climateofchange.pdf

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say “Erase Racism?” I just hope our plea to join forces and demand climate justice don’t amount to a new bumper sticker that says “Change Climate Change.” We have to actually do something, people. For example, demand that our government cut fossil fuel exploration and use, move to renewable energy immediately and not leave those already suffering from years of inaction behind.

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Changing the “us” vs. “them” mentality

When it comes to finding solutions to common ills, there is no “them”; there’s only “us.”

That was the first thing my professor taught us in what came to be called his “Save the world” class. No policy, program, or path was viable if in solving one problem, it created another. And yet, so often it feels like the environment and economy are pitted in a battle to the death, where only one gets the winning policy. But how could these policy solutions truly solve anything, if they just end up hurting us more, in some other way? I believe that everything is connected and that the environment, economy, and equity are actually mutually reinforcing—meaning, we don’t have to sacrifice either one on the path of progress.

For example, industries make money off of pollution—meaning, the more they pollute, the more they make, the more they sell, and the more they earn. They often lobby for policies that benefit them, because sometimes reducing pollutants is an expensive ordeal. But win-win solutions do exist: Starting decades ago, the 3M Company reformulated products and redesigned manufacturing processes to eliminate more than 140,000 metric tons of solid and hazardous wastes, 4 billion liters of wastewater, and 80,000 metric tons of air pollution each year. Not only did these new processes help the environment, but they also saved 3M money by using less energy and fewer raw materials. I doubt that 3M would have been so enthused about helping the environment if it didn’t benefit them directly in some way as well. Still today, 3M is committed to its environmental goals, and it hasn’t sacrificed its profits on the way.

In this ripe time of fighting for policies, we need to keep in mind that no policy will be a true solution if it simply shifts the problems to another sector. These policies will simply come under harsh opposition. True solutions benefit everyone, and finding them may require working with people you’ve traditionally seen as the enemy. So change your thinking: the only “them” in these situations are the problems we face together.

“China’s problem has become the world’s problem”

China’s recent incredible economic growth and the approaching Beijing Olympics have prompted extensive media coverage on issues concerning the Chinese environment. Many sources may claim that it is China’s isolated pursuit of economic gain that has led them to environmental crisis. I believe that these statements create a false impression that the environmental issues in China are separate from the US when in fact, “China’s problem has become the world’s problem” (1).

 

A significant portion of China’s pollution is indirectly or directly caused by US companies. In many water pollution cases the, “Chinese manufacturers that dump waste into rivers or pump smoke into the sky make the cheap products that fill stores in the United States and Europe. Often, these manufacturers subcontract for foreign companies — or are owned by them. In fact, foreign investment continues to rise as multinational corporations build more factories in China” (1). Therefore the United States is a key contributor to pollution crisis in China and should also be held accountable.

 

By contributing to pollution in China, we are in turn contributing to our own. It has been proven that on “some days, nearly 25% of polluting matter above Los Angeles can be traced to Asia, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Scientists have confirmed that the pollution is carried by air currents and they fear that China could one day account for a third of all California’s air pollution” (2). This is a clear example of how the welfare of China is directly related to our own welfare. Combined China and the US are responsible for producing 40% of the world’s greehouse gas emissions. Together we must face address climate change and environmental injustice. 

 

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/asia/26china.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=China%20environment&st=cse&oref=slogin

2. http://www.asianews.it/index.php?art=6843&l=en

Does our future depend on this legislative moment?

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 [2005], 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.

A Look at What’s Happening in US Climate Policy…

Post-Lieberman Warner: How We Got Here and What It Really Means For Us

Local and global devastation and an authentic national outcry to tackle the climate crisis has created a defining moment in climate legislation – a moment characterized by a climate bill frenzy that’s seated corporate lobbyists, traditional enviros, Wall Street economists, lefts, rights, labor unions and presidential candidates at the same table. Since 2003, with wider acceptance of the crisis of global warming, the political palette has gradually and strongly shifted to the taste for climate change policy. On the menu in June was the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, a compromise piece of arguably the most viable climate protection legislation to come before congress thus far, gaining more support than any climate bill before it. For a piece of legislation lauded as the future of US climate policy, the bill fell painfully short of an effective policy, paying familiar lip service to inadequate protection of our communities from climate change impacts while making unjust concessions to industries that would leave our air as unbearable as our energy bills.

Lieberman-Warner failed to pass in the Senate earlier this month, but it has still undoubtedly set the stage for the next round of national climate policy discussions that will grace congressional chambers in the immediate future. The death of Lieberman-Warner was not so much a failure (or success) of the legislative process as it was a mechanism that has catapulted US climate policy into a new arena, where our communities now have another opportunity to engage in the fight for a better policy. This is why it is so important to have knowledge of the history, architecture and pitfalls of the legislative process to effectively strategize for the next battle in climate policy. This is a crash course on what’s been going on in climate policy in the recent past, and what this means for the future of our communities.

The Lieberman-Warner bill was the result of 5 plus years characterized by a history of bi-partisan bill-breeding in the Senate, which began in ’03 with a pioneer bi-partisan bill proposal – the first version of the McCain Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. Since then, with competing bills, new proposals, shifting sponsors and ongoing amendments, the process to get consensus on one major bill (Lieberman-Warner) became a trial and error showdown of legislative survival of the fittest. Early 2007 witnessed the height of the climate bill frenzy as Congress sifted through some dozen or so potential bills for debate in an all-star tournament of Senator tag-teams fighting it out to build enough support for their pet bill to pass subcommittee, and to come out on top of the global warming hype.

Having already failed twice in 2003 and 2005, Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain introduced the third version of the Climate Stewardship Act in January of 2007. But by July of 2007, as support for the bill dwindled, Senator Lieberman finally changed his approach and switched right-wing dancing partners, announcing his intention to craft a new bill with Senator John Warner. News of the proposal sparked growing support as elements of the bill circulated until the Senators formally introduced their new bill, entitled America’s Climate Security Act (S.2191), in October. Thereafter, with the support of Senator Boxer and other noteworthy endorsements, Lieberman-Warner became the remaining standing champ of the climate bill debate.

Lieberman-Warner cleared two major hurdles in the Congressional process, by passing subcommittee (Senate Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection) in October, and then made its way through committee (Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) in early December. But even with that, the bill and its supporters could not muster the 60 votes needed to make it off the Senate floor, even with the significant mark-up it received in the substitute amendment done by Senator Boxer in May. The bill finally entered debate on the Senate floor in early June, and during a week of messy, tense discussions and negotiating maneuvers, the Democratic leadership moved for cloture – a vote that, if passed, would have ended debate and moved the bill to a full vote, thereby putting an end to Republican filibustering and opening the floor to amendments on the bill. However, the motion for cloture failed, gaining only 48 of the required 60 votes. As a result, Lieberman-Warner was pulled from the floor, ending its legislative life, at least until new proposals are brought up in the next Congressional session. Although Lieberman-Warner failed to become law in this session of congress, it has certainly boosted the interest and awareness of the climate policy debate. The struggle now is no longer a matter of votes, but rather a matter of making sure that a well-informed, well-debated foundation for climate justice is in place for what comes next.

If we have learned anything at all from the process of sifting through the platter of climate bills debated over the past few years it is that the chefs on Capitol Hill have little taste for variation. Despite heavy criticism and existing arguments for other market-based approaches, heretofore cap & trade legislation has been the backbone of all climate policy debates thus far, including Lieberman-Warner. While cap & trade legislation holds its own general pitfalls[i], as an emissions reduction scheme, the trading system crafted by Lieberman-Warner’s architects itself has drawn harsh criticism from an array of opponents. Simply put, the bill is weak, and its implications are unjust. The most common, and most compelling, opposition to the bill points out how – even in its improved, amended version – the bill settles for weak emissions reductions targets, allows unprecedented concessions to the coal industry and, as emphasized by many justice-based groups, places the impacts of higher energy costs on the poor and communities of color – those lease able to afford them.

But perhaps the most fundamental problem with the Lieberman-Warner bill is that its targets for cutting carbon emissions are far too low. Science[ii] tells us globally we need to cut emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Lieberman-Warner regulates its emitters under a target of 71% below 2005 levels by 2050, or only 63% below 1990 levels. According to analysis by the EPA, if you include all other sources of carbon emissions, Lieberman-Warner will ultimately cut overall US emissions to only 25% below 1990 levels.[iii] Even more problematic, the amended version leaves room for greater emissions with the inclusion of an emergency offramp designed to keep the price of credits from getting too high – automatically putting even more credits into the market (increasing the emissions cap even higher) if the price exceeds a certain range. These weak regulations on emissions produced a bill with no backbone and set a risky stage for the future, making it even less likely polluters will ultimately make reduction targets over the bill’s 40 year lifetime. Alternately, strong targets now would push investment to develop and implement major, innovative technologies that will actually make a difference.

Another major threat of Lieberman-Warner is how it would allocate its pollution credits. Lieberman-Warner unabashedly gives much of the permits away for free, and to corporate polluters, no less. Instead of selling all of its credits to these polluters through an auction[iv], the bill would give away some $600 billion worth of credits over its lifetime. As a study by Friends of the Earth[v] clearly underlines, the heaviest polluters – namely the coal industry – gets close to half of those permits. This would give the biggest threat to our planet the best advantage.

From the beginning, environmental justice groups have been dissatisfied with Lieberman-Warner. When Senator Boxer announced her substitute amendment in May, one of the most touted provisions, made in response to growing criticism of the original bill by community activists, was an increase in the amount of assistance the bill would give to low-income communities who would hurt most from higher energy costs and job transitions to renewable energies. But in reality, the amendment was only a small improvement and the bill continued to lack sufficient substance to address community needs. This is because, generally, the bill uses revenues from auction profits and filters the money ineffectively through different entities that are to fund the programs that assist low-income consumers.

More fundamentally, Lieberman-Warner lacks accountability to communities and denies them a strong voice in the process. The bill was negotiated and developed largely behind closed doors, under a severely rushed time frame. The bill simply lacked any provisions for community input or oversight. We are now given a new window of opportunity to inject our voices in the debate that will shape future legislation. With the failure of Lieberman-Warner, there is no expectation to pass a bill in Senate this year. But conversations will not stop as the frenzy continues.

Better bills are being proposed. In fact, amongst a handful of proposals circulating in the House right now, Congressman Edward Markey has announced one of the most comprehensive bills to date. Clearly building off of criticism from past bill debates, Markey’s “Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act,” or iCAP, 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. Not ideal, but much improved, what Markey’s bill indicates is that there can be a clear movement for future policies that build on the pitfalls Lieberman-Warner presented, but only if we remain vigilant.

As new bills are being crafted and put on the menu for the next round of debates, we need to be sure to put in our orders for what our communities demand.


[i] Resources on general cap & trade legislation:

· The EPA’s website has a collection of information: http://www.epa.gov/airmarkt/resource/cap-trade-resource.html

· Or, for a comprehensive, introductory powerpoint presentation by Dr. Holmes Hummel, explaining the mechanics of cap & trade policy: http://www.thunks.net/Cap-and-Trade.htm

[ii] IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, the science behind 80 by 2050 at: http://www.ipcc.ch/

[iii] EPA Analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 http://epa.gov/climatechange/downloads/s2191_EPA_Analysis.pdf

[iv] Read Jim Barrett’s issue brief The True Cost of Free Pollution Permits for further reading on the arguments for auctioning permits instead of giving them away to polluters for free.

[v] Windfalls in Lieberman Warner Global Warming Bill by Friends of the Earth. Read the analysis here: http://www.foe.org/pdf/Lieberman_Warner_2-1_Update.pdf.

the “i” word [idealist]

Hey there, my name is Rebecca, and I’m a summer intern at the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. This is a really exciting time to be involved with this movement! The national and international “green scene” is approaching a critical period in time: Governments, corporations, and the public are finally looking at themselves and asking, “How can we fix this mess?” International Indigenous Rights movements are building up steam, along with Human Rights movements, and, especially in the United States, discussions of race and gender have treaded waters that they hadn’t even dipped a toe in for quite some time. The rhetoric of “Change we can believe in” has moved beyond presidential campaigns into people’s personal lives. This is certainly true in the United States where most people are fed up with a war that has gone on for too long. We are financially crippled by our dependence on fossil fuels and the structures of oppression that lead to disparities and inequalities between particular groups in the U.S. are stubbornly persistent.

I feel that all of these factors can help to stimulate the environmental justice and climate justice movement. As humans, no matter how removed we might feel from the environment, we are surely still dependent on it. So if we are to survive, we must conserve it. There are vast amounts of deep-seated power structures in all parts of the world, but in order to create a just, fair, and vibrant earth, an immeasurable amount of people must be invested in the common vision of dismantling these structures. This challenge is what inspires many people involved in the social justice movement to do what they do.

Interestingly enough, it is very possible for both of these enormous issues to be combated simultaneously, which is what environmental justice and climate justice is all about. (More on this idea next post!)

[uncovered: random transit convo #1]

Random Transit Convo #1
December 10, 2007
By Jihan Gearon

Here at the COP/MOP you can meet lots of interesting people and have lots of interesting conversations just riding the shuttle between the BICC (Bali International Convention Center) and the Grand Hyatt, where the side events are being held. Today I sat next to a man from Uganda. Our conversation started the way all conversations start here – “where are you from?”

When he found out I was from the U.S. he asked, “why isn’t climate change a major issue in your presidential debate?” I told him I thought it was because all of our presidential candidates would rather focus on the need for U.S. energy independence. That means they have in interest in continuing the use of fossil fuels. I think there are probably more reasons than that, but that’s the first one that popped into my mind. Then I started asking him questions.

Question: What are you wanting to come out of the COP/MOP?
Answer: Stopping the use of fossil fuels and using more renewable energy.

Question: What do you think of nuclear power?
Answer: Yes.

Question: What do you think of carbon trading?
Answer: It’s okay, but not enough. It doesn’t stop the use of fossil fuels, especially from the main polluters and that’s what we need.

Question: How is climate change affecting where you’re from?
Answer: Floods. We are having more floods when we used to have none, even during the dry season. When I was young we didn’t have anything like it, but now we do. Just a little while ago there was a flood that came our of nowhere and many people died. About 60 people died and a lot of homes were destroyed.

More or less. By then, our bus ride was over and we parted ways. I wish I had interviewed him with the camera. It’s always good for me to hear from people who have a good knowledge of where they’re from and can attest to how they’re local environment is changing. And it’s also good for me to hear that they understand what real solutions we need – less fossil fuel use from the rich countries.

jihan+ben


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