Doing Climate Right: A new voice on the scene

Authors: ada By Adam Siegel Crossposted from GetEnergySmartNow.Com 4/8/09 E3 (economy, energy, environment) presents us all with very significant, even daunting challenges. Tackling these challenges right also represents great opportunity to come out, at the other end, stronger than we are today. Formed by more than two dozen organizations, the Climate Equity Alliance is a voice to see that we, collectively, pursue solutions to seize opportunity and to help assure that climate solutions lead to a stronger society, to greater social equity, rather than creating even more societal stresses and worsening the rich-poor divide and weakening the middle/lower-middle/lower-income individuals and communities across the country. From Green For All, one of the founding organizations
Those who are truly concerned with the future of our planet, and our people (both in the short and long term), must be a voice for strong climate legislation that protects and offers opportunity to all Americas. The Climate Equity Alliance has stepped up just in time, to be that voice.
  Perhaps most important, the six principles are worthy of consideration and inclusion at the core of any climate legislation:
1. Protect people and the planet Limit carbon emissions at a level and timeline that science dictates. Policies designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions and advance climate solutions must be aggressive and timely enough to ensure that the worst environmental and economic consequences of global warming are averted. Unchecked, the impacts of global warming will be costly for everyone, but they will likely hit low and moderate income people, including people of color, first and worst.
Principle 1 says take science seriously and align policy with scientific knowledge, basing policy on reality rather than ideology. In addition, it matters that there is a clear statement upfront abotu costs: that unchecked catastrophic climate change will have severe costs that should not be forgotten in discussing the costs and benefits of taking action to mitigate climate change.
2. Maximize the gain: Build an inclusive green economy providing pathways into prosperity and expanding opportunity for America’s workers and communities. The shift to a low-carbon, clean, green economy has the potential to create large numbers of quality green-collar jobs for American workers, grow emerging industries, and improve the health of low and moderate income people and people of color, who suffer disproportionately from cancer, asthma and other respiratory ailments in the current pollution-based economy. This shift represents a significant opportunity to make cost-effective public and private investments that help rebuild and retrofit our nation, and through training and job readiness programs, to ensure that those who most need work are prepared to do the work that most needs to be done.
Right now, for any number of reasons, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be suffering ill-effects from pollution. Cleaning up our energy act will benefit those lower on the economic spectrum. Done in the right manner, greening our economy will create substantive opportunities throughout society, including creating a wave of new opportunities for some of the communities most harshly hit by the current economic crisis.
3. Minimize the pain Assist low and moderate-income families in meeting their basic needs. Energy prices are already rising as the world’s supply of fossil fuels fails to keep pace with increasing demand. Because low and moderate-income households spend a larger share of their budgets on energy and other basic costs of living than better-off households, global warming legislation should ensure that any further energy-related price increases are offset by direct consumer rebates that effectively and efficiently reach these households and workers, with the assistance delivered in ways that are consistent with energy conservation goals, and with particular attention to those most in need.
This is an important principle, but also a delicate one. In our “BAU” (business as usual) situation, energy prices will go up inexorably, without considering the massive implications of external costs like asthma, acidification of the oceans, and global warming. Thus, ‘doing nothing’ will worsen the energy costs situations for all including, most harshly, low- and moderate-income households. Doing nothing is not a good option. While, in the long run, the total impact of Energy Smart policies will be to create lower total energy services costs (what matters is not the electricity delivered to your house, but whether you can heat/cool it, refrigerate food, cook dinner, have lighting to read) (costs including health impacts), there are risks that some low/moderate-income households could be stressed during phases of the transition to a clean energy economy. This principle says: take active measures to reduce the risk of creating undue stress onto already stressed families and communities.
4. Shore up resilience to climate impacts Assure that those who are most vulnerable to the direct effects of climate change are able to prepare and adapt. Climate change impacts such as severe weather events and public health threats disproportionately and adversely affect the most vulnerable, including low income, minority, and immigrant populations. At-risk communities need help adapting to the impacts of climate change and preparing to respond effectively in the event of a natural disaster.
Read this principle, think about the realities of Katrina and who was hardest hit — and least well-served in the days beforehand and afterwards. This could read: “no more Katrinas”. The reality is that we will have climate change and many of the effects already are catastrophic. We should invest, wisely, to limit the impacts on all Americans but we have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide for those least able to help themselves.
5. Ease the transition Address the impacts of economic change for workers and communities. Workers in older industries that are highly reliant on carbon based energy – and the communities in which they’re concentrated – must be provided with the assistance and tools necessary to make the transition to the emerging low carbon economy and to be competitive for good jobs within it.
Coal miners and communities have helped power this nation to greatness. Even as we move off our coal addictions, we should be fostering the miners and communities moves into new and cleaner economic opportunities. The objective should be to help assure that there is something better, already in hand, to replace 19th century polluting economic models — again, both for individuals and communities.
6. Put a price on global warming pollution and invest in solutions Capture the value of carbon emissions for public purposes and invest this resource in an equitable transition to a clean energy economy. Greenhouse gas pollution should not result in windfall profits for corporations. The money generated by placing a price on carbon will be substantial, amounting to tens to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. This resource should be used to invest in the public good by ensuring an inclusive and fair transition to a high-road green economy, which advances the needs of workers, consumers, families, and diverse urban and rural communities while protecting the planet.
Again, another serious principle. Polluters should pay. And, for the most part, what they pay should be invested in paths to hasten the move toward a prosperous, climate-friendly society. All in all, these are six serious and valuable principles that should be given serious weight in Congressional deliberations about best paths forward on climate change. Note: For a related discussion, see Rev Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip-Hop Caucus, Tears from Heaven: Dr. King Would Want Climate Justice.

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