The cost of air pollution is not zero. Americans are paying the cost every day, and some pay more than others.
People of color and low-income communities live on the frontlines of pollution in America. A long history of discriminatory land-use and facility-siting practices have put the dirtiest sources of toxic air pollution in their neighborhoods. This has led to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and pollution-related illness in these communities. These families are paying the cost of pollution in shortened lifespans, increased medical costs, depressed property values, and missed school and work days.
Taxpayers at large are paying a cost too. We are paying billions of dollars to clean up and rebuild communities following climate-induced extreme weather events. We are even paying more for our grocery bills due to drought’s effect on agriculture.
We can reverse this trend. It’s time the biggest polluters pay to clean up their own mess.
Policymakers can charge polluters a fee for polluting (also known as “carbon pricing”) to recover the cost of pollution. Moreover, they can use those revenues to reinvest in programs that uplift the communities who’ve been most impacted by pollution. We’re talking about planting trees in urban neighborhoods, weatherizing homes, building energy efficient affordable housing near transit hubs, free bus passes for students and seniors, cleaning up ports, electric van pools for agricultural workers, zero-emission school buses for kids, and so much more. We’re talking about creating jobs, contracts, and business opportunities for people to build healthier, more resilient and thriving neighborhoods.
There are many forms of carbon pricing out there, and the devil is in the details. Carbon pricing is commonly known as cap and trade or a carbon tax. But the specifics of any of these forms of carbon pricing really is the difference maker between a policy that can exacerbate inequality, and a policy that can help us build a better future for all.
Download the Green For All Effective Carbon Policy Pricing Primer.
Carbon pricing is not the only way to reduce climate change emissions, and alone is an insufficient solution. However, it can be a useful and valuable tool for funding many of the green solutions we need to make a just transition to a cleaner, greener future for all. Carbon pricing works best when paired with additional policies aimed at reducing local toxic air emissions and inequality.
Northeast & Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S.
Green For All is part of a broad coalition of organizations working to advance a regional cap and invest policy for 12 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and Washington D.C. who are a part of the Transportation and Climate Initiative. The goal is to curb transportation sector emissions and build a clean, modern transportation future for all.
We are working with community partners to shape the policy to be responsive to the needs of the region’s low-income communities and communities of color who are most underserved by transportation or overburdened by pollution. The policy is projected to raise between $3 billion and $6 billion per year. If we are successful, we will help struggling families reach jobs, education, and healthcare more efficiently and affordably while breathing cleaner air.
Learn more here.
Green For All has supported Renew Oregon and coalition partners to develop and advance Clean Energy Jobs legislation that holds polluters accountable through a cap and invest policy. The bill is projected to raise nearly $900 million and has the potential to create the first-in-the-nation carve out for investment in tribal communities. Green For All sat down with Street Roots Portland to talk about the bill that would create #CleanEnergyJobs. Read the story here. Check out the latest campaign news from Renew Oregon for what comes next.
Green For All provided policy guidance and support to members of the NY Renews Coalition during the early stages of development of the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). Having finally passed in 2019, this legislation commits New York to achieve 100% carbon-free power by 2050, prioritize climate investments for disadvantaged communities, and provide a just transition for impacted workers. As it pertains to carbon pricing, this bill requires New York to spend a minimum of 35% of the state’s cap and trade dollars to benefit disadvantaged communities, replicating California’s prior commitment to invest at least 35% of its cap and trade dollars to benefit disadvantaged communities (Note: California in practice has spent well over 50% of its cap and trade dollars to benefit disadvantaged communities in recent years). Green For All is proud to have supported local leaders in New York as a national partner and member of the NY Renews Coalition.
Green For All has both opposed and supported various carbon pricing policies in Washington State. In 2016, we opposed ballot initiative 732, which proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax that charged polluters for their pollution, but spent the revenue on tax breaks for big business. Policies like I-732 would do nothing to address inequality and create a just transition to a clean economy. In fact, revenue-neutral policies are more likely to exacerbate the environmental and economic divides that exist.
In 2018, a robust coalition of environmental and social justice groups offered a much stronger alternative in ballot initiative 1631, which would have invested revenues in clean energy job creation. Green For All supported this effort by organizing the largest door-to-door canvassing event of the campaign, recruiting and mobilizing 200 volunteers, in collaboration with the Yes on 1631 Coalition. We also recruited and mobilized celebrity influencers Van Jones and the grammy-award winning hip hop artist Macklemore, to create compelling digital ads to win support from Washington voters. Unfortunately, although this initiative gained greater support from voters than the 2016 measure, it did not earn enough votes to pass.
President Obama issued the first-ever federal rule limiting pollution from power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan set greenhouse-gas reduction goals for each state, but left it up to states to determine how they would meet those goals. Green For All convened some of the top environmental, economic and social justice organizations in the country to create the Clean Power For All Toolkits to provide guidance on state implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The Toolkits provid a roadmap for how states could design a strong plan that protects and benefits all communities — from low income communities to coal miners. One of the toolkits in the series specifically deals with carbon pricing as a tool for states to raise revenue for implementation. Click here to download the toolkits.
(2 pager) Key Elements of Effective Carbon Pricing by Green For All
(Toolkit) Carbon Pricing & Equity Legislator Toolkit by State Innovation Exchange