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Monday, June 01, 2009

CO2 on the Other Side of the Railroad Tracks

According to researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of California Berkeley, African Americans living in Los Angeles have a projected heat-wave mortality rate that is nearly twice that of other Los Angeles residents. The report, "The Climate Gap, Inequalities in how Climate Change hurts Americans and How to Close the Gap" states that people of color will be hurt the most by climate change unless elected officials and other policymakers intervene. AAEA agrees and is promoting an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to address this issue.

The California Legislature is considering a bill, AB 1404, that would drastically limit the amount of greenhouse gases that polluters could offset by paying emitters in other regions to cut their gases. AAEA supports the bill and has signed on with other organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists. Under loose guidelines adopted by the California Air Resources Board under the state's landmark global warming law, up to 49% of greenhouse gas pollution could be reduced through offsets such as planting trees or capturing landfill gases. AB 1404, introduced by Assembly members Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Manuel Perez (D-Coachella), would limit offsets to 10% and charge fees to fund careful verification of their integrity.

The big loophole in California’s otherwise exemplary global warming program would allow polluters to buy “offsets” — credits that polluters can buy for emission reductions elsewhere as a substitute for making reductions themselves. California’s big global warming polluters should invest in local solutions instead of buying offsets and continuing to emit as usual.

The U.S. Congress considering legislation to control greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and how it is designed will have a major impact on low-income neighborhoods located near refineries, power plants and other industrial facilities that also emit unhealthful conventional pollutants. Many environmental justice groups oppose the cap and trade model because they feel that it will lead to racial 'hot spots' that will remain vulnerable, or even become more vulnerable, to the impacts of higher temperatures and more unpredictable weather. The principal legislation, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly HIlls) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) ,would allow U.S. industries to offset up to 2 billion metric tons of gases per year, and a majority of the offsets could come from projects outside the U.S. Although we support the California legislation, we believe a very active global trading system needs to be established in order to address this global problem.

The Climate Gap report recommends that federal and state legislation force industries to purchase permits to emit greenhouse gases through an auction system, or a fee system. AAEA opposes the auctioning of allowances.

According to the researchers, offering fewer free pollution permits to oil facilities, which are mostly located in minority and low-income neighborhoods, would be particularly effective in cleaning up unhealthful air that is linked to heart disease and respiratory illness. AAEA is promoting an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to effectively address 'hot spot' concerns. (L.A.Times, 5/29/09)

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