Hardwiring a Commitment to Equity in Our Proposed CA Climate & Clean Air Initiative

The scare from the worsening fire season on the West Coast (and in other parts of the world) combined with hurricanes in the east has sensitized many people to the fact that the climate emergency is here. Last week we told you Move LA is launching a statewide effort as Move CA, and with our Northern California partner SPUR are investigating the idea of putting a "California Climate and Clean Air Initiative" on the November 2022 ballot.

Our goal is to raise the funding needed to meet California's vital climate and air quality goals while also building a just and equitable economy, and the climate leaders featured at our event expressed much enthusiasm for the idea: Mary Nichols, Fran Pavley, Kevin de Leon and Terry Tamminen told us the great need—and big opportunity—to make dramatic near-term and lasting improvements are in accelerating the deployment of zero-emission transportation and off-road technologies—both battery-electric and hydrogen.

They also emphasized the need for major reductions in the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs)—also known as "super pollutants"—including fugitive methane, black carbon and HFCs.

And they said hard-wiring a commitment to equity for disadvantaged communities should be a co-equal priority for this measure. 

Below are the remarks made in response to the climate leaders by our nonprofit partners, who also focused on the importance of keeping equity in the forefront of planning for this measure. To listen to the two-hour conversation CLICK HERE, or there's a 30-minute version at the top of the page HERE. 

Bill Magavern, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air: The vast majority of our air pollution problem, aside from the horrible wildfire smoke, is coming from transportation . . . What’s particularly toxic is diesel exhaust from the movement of goods, which is why the Coalition for Clean Air focuses much of our work on goods movement—including trucks, locomotives, and cargo-handling equipment.  We need to replace diesel with cleaner alternatives, including zero-emission engines wherever feasible and near-zero engines with renewable fuels everywhere else. 

We have strong regulatory standards and it is vital that we complement these standards with incentive dollars [as proposed in this ballot measure] because incentives have been crucial in advancing the technologies that we need and also crucial in accelerating fleet turnover—in both light and heavy-duty vehicles—by getting dirty old engines off the road.

We laid the foundation for equitable clean mobility with the Charge Ahead California Initiative, which establishes equity-based transportation projects at CARB, including Clean Cars for All, which is a scrap-and-replace program so low-income drivers can get out of their dirty old gas guzzlers and into advanced clean vehicles or get transit passes. Charge Ahead projects also include electric vehicle car-sharing and electric-vehicle financing.

But we also need to invest in charging and fueling infrastructure for battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles. And we must reduce vehicle miles travelled by reforming transportation funding and planning.  We are currently funding the old paradigm by investing millions and millions of dollars into roads when we should be funding transit and active transportation, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Alvaro Sanchez, Environmental Equity Director, Greenlining Institute: We must do more than ensure that a percentage of our resources are invested in disadvantaged communities. Now, in addition to investing in those communities, we must also allow  the people who live there and are most impacted [by climate change and air pollution] to become core partners in the transformation we need to address both poverty and pollution at the same time. 

We really have to center equity so that it influences the process, implementation, and outcomes—so that the people living in disadvantaged communities receive direct, meaningful and measurable benefits. And we need an analysis and evaluation process related to the equity goal so we can ensure we’re making progress along equity lines.

We just published a report called The Greenlined Economy Guidebook, which identifies the barriers that currently get in the way of an economy that is cooperative, regenerative, democratic, non-exploitive and inclusive. And we put together a set of standards to make sure that equity is in the DNA of the process and isn’t just an add-on . . . We need to advance multi-sectoral approaches because communities are not failing because of just one deficiency—it’s not just a lack of housing, for example, but rather housing with good mobility options, green spaces and places where people can buy healthy food.

We need to build community-driven decision-making and establish pathways towards wealth-building, whether it’s good jobs or workforce development or educational opportunities or contracting opportunities—these need to be embedded in the approach. And we need to operationalize equity in the design and implementation and analysis of our measures.

Chione Flegal, Managing Director, PolicyLink: Our local, state and federal policies have created huge disparities in the experiences of communities. We are now a majority-of-color state, which means most of our population is set up to fail because of these policies. Until we undo the impacts of redlining and the legacy of disinvestment, and all the policies that have locked communities out of our economic systems . . . we are not going to be successful. 

New money is an important part of the solution but it’s not enough. We are spending billions of dollars as a state every year, often spending it in a way that is at cross purposes with the outcomes we are talking about today. There’s a lot of work to be done aligning existing policies and spending with the goals of a clean energy economy that works for everyone . . . 

Every time we write policy or spend money we need to ask: How do we protect people so they can stay in their communities and continue to access the resources they’re accustomed to and that help build resilience into their daily lives? How can we expand housing development in communities that are opportunity-rich and allow people to move up the economic scale? Our polices and investments need to address these questions or they will not lead to the change we need.

We see a huge need to invest in the training and preparation of individuals who have barriers to employment . . . small businesses are not on an equal playing field either. So we’re thinking about training for workers and training and capacity development for people of color-owned and women-owned businesses so they have the know-how and skills to actually participate in the green economy. People need resources to actually sit down and talk about the vision we are moving toward and what it’s going to take to get them there . . . And this cannot be done without bringing them in to the process. Folks need to speak to these issues directly.

Chanell Fletcher, Executive Director, ClimatePlan: I’ve been inspired by Gov. Newsom’s executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035, by Black Lives Matter going deep on defunding the police, and by Gov. Newsom creating a task force to look at slavery and reparations and what that could mean. Those things may not seem connected to transportation but they are for me. Because when we are talking about these big climate goals and about phasing out gas vehicles I think about the transportation system that we’ve inherited, and the fact that the bulk of the funding is coming from gas and diesel excise taxes, which are funneled into state highways and local streets and roads—that has been our funding priority.

But priorities like these continue to facilitate segregation and racism because we built these highways so wealthier white communities could be built in the suburbs. We need to understand the structures that are currently in place and being funded—are state transportation agencies considering racial justice and equity when they spend that money? Do they have a planning process that focuses on the communities most impacted by their decision-making? 

So as with defunding the police, unless we start making changes now we’re not going to see anything change in the next 10 or 20 years. I think we have to look at the projects and programs that are getting the bulk of our money. How are we evaluating our current transportation funding? Are we considering changing the top-down planning process? 

If we have these very ambitious climate goals should highways and local streets and roads be getting the bulk of the money—shouldn’t gas and diesel excise taxes be our revenue source [to roll back climate change]?

Mary Creasman, CEO, California League of Conservation Voters: The game has changed . . . I never would have thought even a month ago that we’d see something like Gov. Newsom’s executive order [banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035]. We’ve just finished a legislative session with largely no action on the things being discussed on this call today. So it makes me wonder: What is politically possible?

If we are talking about raising $30 billion, that is just a down payment on the rate and the scale of the serious change needed for climate change and climate justice in a state of our scale and given how far behind we are . . . and I say that as somebody who has worked with people on this call on regional measures that have generated more than $100 billion in places like LA County . . . If we’re measuring ourselves against what communities are feeling and being burdened with right now and what science tells us we have to do, I’d say $30 billion is not nearly enough. 

The wildfires have thrown a wrench in our goals by radically increasing carbon emissions. [The forests and natural lands] we used to rely on as carbon sinks to clean the air could now turn into bigger carbon emitters than the transportation sector . . . 

We cannot prevent catastrophe unless every part of the state participates, including under-resourced communities and black, brown, and indigenous people of color, and our rural communities in the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Coachella Valley . . . We just finished a poll that showed 79% of all voters are prioritizing the clean energy economy right now. We have the opportunity to shift public will and we need to think about who must be sitting at the table to design and innovate the solutions.

  • Gloria Ohland
    published this page in Blog 2020-10-20 13:53:51 -0700

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