Who Owns the Air? …and Who Profits from It?
California is the first state in the U.S. with climate legislation. Starting next year, our state commits the world’s 8th largest economy to reduce its share of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. But, rather than requiring the biggest polluters cut their pollution, 20% of all reductions are supposed to come from a contentious program called cap-and-trade.
This August 24th, hundreds of Californians from the most polluted cities and farmlands are converging on Sacramento to speak out against Cap and Trade. Low-income people of color from Oakland to Wilmington, from Richmond to Kettleman City, are rejecting cap-and-trade- a policy that would hurt their health, pollute their air and wreck their chances for creating a local green economy.
Cap-and-trade has been branded by its supporters as a market-based climate solution that will minimize costs for business and maximize effectiveness in achieving California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The question is, who really benefits and how would communities already most impacted by poverty and pollution be affected?
In addition to being major sources of greenhouse gases, California’s oil refineries, cement kilns, and fossil-fueled power plants create large quantities of toxic co-pollutants. Disproportionately located in low-income communities of color, toxic “co-pollutants” impact these communities 70% more than any other area. Communities living in the shadows of such oil refineries experience far higher rates of asthma, cancer, and pulmonary disease, than the general population.
For millions of people across the state, the right to clean air is far from guaranteed. Corporations act as if they own the air, and can do what they want to it. But every year, 18,000 Californians die prematurely from air pollution. With cap and trade, those numbers could get even worse.
Cap-and-trade would make pollution profitable – a privatized and tradeable resource in which companies too cheap to innovate could pay to pollute – while local residents impacted by the pollution pay with their health and their lives.
Europe’s experience with cap-and-trade since 2005 is indicative of what could happen in California. Not only did polluters make windfall profits, the speculators in the financial industry created a multi-billion dollar market that exploited loopholes in the system.
Viable alternatives to cap-and-trade– like taxing and regulating polluters exist. These solutions would make polluters pay, clean up our air and lungs, and create jobs. But the California Air Resources Board (CARB) wants to continue with cap-and-trade rather than explore these more equitable alternatives.
Luckily, Governor Brown has the power to stop cap and trade. It’s up to you to ask the Governor to put a halt to cap-and-trade and promote real climate solutions. Join the call to stop cap-and-trade and forward solutions for a healthy California!