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Jan. 11, 2021 by Shalanda H. Baker, Alice Kaswan

The Hill Op-ed -- From Rhetoric to Reality: Achieving Climate Justice

The Black Lives Matter movement highlights long-standing inequities and amplifies the drumbeat for climate justice and an equitable transition to a clean economy. With the incoming Biden-Harris administration and a growing list of environmental justice advocates at the helm, it's time to move from rhetoric to reality. We offer concrete proposals to turn climate justice goals into climate justice policies.

The call for climate justice has multiple dimensions, from ensuring an equitable transition to clean energy for vulnerable communities and workers disrupted by the move away from fossil fuels, to extending the benefits of our economy-wide shift to those who have historically been left behind. Even more than past environmental challenges, decarbonizing will not be a narrow, technical undertaking. We need a holistic, justice-centered perspective to shape our vision for a green economy and meet the pervasive environmental and socioeconomic challenges and opportunities ahead.

From Kentucky to Louisiana to Arizona, communities and workers who rely on the fossil fuel industry are confronting an existential shift, one that requires our collective attention and support. We recommend that the incoming administration and Congress assess these communities’ needs and fund planning for and implementation of …

July 1, 2020 by Alice Kaswan
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When California adopted its first-in-the-nation regulations requiring truck electrification on June 25, the state took a step (or drove a mile) toward reducing pollution in the nation's most vulnerable communities. The new regulation exemplifies a key feature of California's approach: its integration of climate goals, clean air goals, and, at least in this case, environmental justice goals.

According to the press release from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), trucks in California contribute 80 percent of the state's diesel pollution and 70 percent of its smog-causing pollution while constituting less than 7 percent of registered vehicles. The rule's environmental assessment explains that particulate matter from diesel engines is responsible "for approximately 60 percent of the current estimated cancer risk for background ambient air." These risks are highest near freight hubs, including "ports, rail yards and distribution centers." And these areas, in turn, are often in …

June 10, 2020 by Alice Kaswan
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Black lives matter. As we contemplate the scope of structural racism, we find that “Black Lives Matter” needs to be said over and over again. We say it as we push for policing that protects rather than threatens. And we can keep saying it. Like when we talk about having available, affordable health care. Having access to technology and broadband, a quiet space, and time when the classroom becomes off limits due to a pandemic or climate-driven extreme weather. Finding an affordable place to live and landlords who don’t discriminate. Finding meaningful work and getting a promotion. Finding fresh food. Getting respect.

And then there’s the environment. We still see stark disparities in exposures to environmental harms in our country. For example, communities of color are more likely to live in areas with higher levels of air pollution. For decades, people of color have been …

June 1, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, David Flores, Matthew Freeman, James Goodwin, Brian Gumm, Catherine Jones, Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt, Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick, Robert Glicksman, Alice Kaswan, Thomas McGarity, Joel Mintz, Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden
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Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.

CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …

July 12, 2019 by Alice Kaswan
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High hopes that putting a price on carbon emissions would provide the most effective and politically expedient climate change policy keep getting dashed. In June, Oregon's Republican senators fled the state and hid rather than enact a carbon cap-and-trade program. Washington State citizen initiatives to pass a carbon tax have failed – twice. Even in progressive California, efforts to include a cap-and-trade program in the state's initial climate legislation failed; cap-and-trade came later, administratively rather than legislatively, and as part of a larger plan. 

Carbon pricing has an important role to play and should be a part of any comprehensive climate strategy. However, as I argue in a new CPR Issue Brief, Carbon Pricing: Essential But Insufficient, carbon pricing will not solve the climate crisis. Pricing alone is unlikely to be fully effective, would sacrifice core democratic values, and, as we've seen, may be less politically viable than …

June 27, 2019 by Alice Kaswan
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The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the Trump administration's recently released substitute for his predecessor's Clean Power Plan (CPP), has been widely criticized as an ineffectual mechanism for addressing power plants' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. More broadly, the rule substitutes a technocratic, plant-by-plant approach for the more comprehensive and participatory state planning required by the now-repealed CPP.

The ACE identifies a range of potential heat-rate improvements (usually efficiency improvements) at coal-fired power plants and then lets the states determine which of these "candidate technologies" are feasible at which plants. The states then embody these performance requirements in state implementation plans (SIPs) subject to EPA approval. Energy system planning plays no role in controlling emissions.

In contrast, the CPP, formally repealed at the same time as the ACE was finalized, set the stage for state-level energy system planning. Under the CPP, utilities or plant owners could not only …

Nov. 19, 2018 by Alice Kaswan
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Washington State has continued to try – unsuccessfully – to pass a carbon tax, with the latest effort, Initiative 1631, losing on November 6. The state's effort to control carbon is laudable, but Washington and other states contemplating how to fill the growing federal climate policy void should consider leading with a vision for a clean energy transition rather than a politically challenging "price." An overarching vision for a low-carbon future and a public decision-making process for achieving that future could attract more support than the imposition of a stand-alone fee or tax.

States might take a page from California's book: The central pillar of the state's climate program is its multi-sector planning process for achieving progressively demanding carbon reduction targets. When California set its first legislative targets in AB 32, it set in motion an economy-wide effort to identify and assess emission reduction opportunities in every sector …

Oct. 25, 2018 by Alice Kaswan
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This op-ed originally ran in the Fresno Bee.

Cities in the San Joaquin Valley continue to land among the American Lung Association's top 10 most polluted communities in the country. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the comment period closed on the Trump administration's plans to ratchet back federal emissions standards and eliminate California's authority to run its crucial car emissions programs. Although the administration has its eyes on greenhouse gas controls, what's at stake is California's ability to transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles, a transition essential to reducing the pollutants that threaten public health in California and elsewhere in the nation.

The federal government has the primary authority to set automobile pollution standards under the Clean Air Act. But Congress — recognizing California's serious air pollution challenges — stipulated that California is entitled to a "waiver" that lets the state set stricter standards, and which gives other states the option …

Sept. 26, 2018 by Alice Kaswan
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Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission.

A recent study tells us that Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, may have caused as many as 4,600 deaths, far exceeding the initial official death toll of 64. In contrast, contemporaneous hurricanes in Texas and Florida appear to have caused far fewer deaths: 88 in Texas and 75 in Florida.

The differing outcomes bring home the importance of Sidney A. Shapiro and Robert R. M. Verchick’s recent article, which explores the way that underlying social vulnerability determines the impacts of major environmental transitions.

Just as a hurricane’s consequences differ dramatically depending on many socioeconomic factors—including infrastructure, access to medical care, and financial resources—the consequences of a shift to a green economy will differ based on the impacted …

Sept. 12, 2018 by Alice Kaswan, Alyson Flournoy, Robert Verchick
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This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report.

Three months before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the state relaxed what many had considered to be one of the best building codes in the country. That wasn’t an anomaly. A report by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety found that many states along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts either lack building codes or have relaxed them in recent years.

When jurisdictions fail to plan, or plan too little, they squander the opportunity to avoid or mitigate significant problems. Houston and surrounding Harris County, have seen massive in-migration and development in the last 20 years on some of the least absorbent soils in the nation, but has not developed adequate stormwater infrastructure. Behind Orleans and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana, Harris County ranks third in the nation for the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 11, 2021

The Hill Op-ed -- From Rhetoric to Reality: Achieving Climate Justice

July 1, 2020

California Keeps on Truckin'

June 10, 2020

Black Lives Matter and the Environment

June 1, 2020

CPR Will Stand with Those Who Cannot Breathe

July 12, 2019

Beyond Carbon Pricing: Envisioning a Green Transition

June 27, 2019

Replacing the CPP's Visionary Energy Planning with the ACE's Technical Tinkering

Nov. 19, 2018

Message for State Climate Policy: Lead with a Vision, Not a Tax