Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

CEJA Applauds Governor Brown’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Executive Order; Calls for Increased Commitment to Environmental Justice

On Tuesday, April 29th 2015, Governor Brown announced an Executive Order that establishes a greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 (available here). On behalf of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), we applaud Governor Brown’s climate leadership. It is imperative that California, as a leader nationally and internationally continue to lead the way in addressing the human toll caused by our changing climate.

CEJA is a statewide coalition of grassroots, community-based organizations working to advance health and environmental justice. Our members work directly in low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by pollution and are on the frontlines of climate change.

The Executive Order is an important step in the right direction. It will increase our overall efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which without a doubt, is critical to the long-term health and quality of life of California’s working class communities of color.

The Executive Order indicates that while implementing the new target, state agencies should be guided by the principle of “protecting the state’s most vulnerable populations.” We are heartened to see this language included in the order, but CEJA believes Governor Brown, state agencies and the Legislature must go further to ensure that equity is at the center of our new greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. For example, the disproportionate impacts of air pollution and greenhouse gases in low-income rural areas must be addressed, and benefits must be equitably distributed across urban and rural areas.

California’s climate policy cannot leave low-income communities and communities of color to weather the storm alone.

California can put equity in foreground by utilizing new climate policies to achieve  multiple goals that  that improve air quality, health and create new opportunities in the most impacted communities. This can be accomplished by requiring direct emission reductions of both stationary and mobiles sources and increases in energy efficiency and conservation. Such measures would clean our air, protect the health of our residents, and would have the additional benefits of creating local jobs. Foregrounding equity also means addressing gaps in the current regulatory program by rapidly decreasing the number of free allowances that large emitters receive and prohibiting the use of international offsets to meet GHG reduction targets. Measures such as these will ensure that the benefits of California’s climate policies are enjoyed first and foremost by Californians.

Governor Brown is sending a clear message that California must transition off fossil fuels by 2050. New climate policies can create a path forward for innovative solutions such as aggressively reducing our reliance on fossil fuel in the transportation sector, requiring more electricity from renewable sources, clear mandates and priorities for local distributed generation, and standards that advance energy efficiency in homes and buildings, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. These policies if implemented with equity at the center can bring clean renewable energy and energy efficiency directly to most impacted communities and create quality jobs that benefit families today, while securing a healthy environment for job seekers of the future.

Finally, the Administration, legislature and implementing agencies should work together to ensure that the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions accrue directly within disadvantaged communities and strengthen across the board mandates to ensure that implementation of new climate policies provides direct benefits to disadvantaged communities. This means prioritizing disadvantaged communities, urban and rural, for:

  • Direct public health improvements,
  • Increased investments,
  • Measures that support job and local, green economic growth.

CEJA looks forward to working with the Administration, the Legislature and implementing agencies to ensure California’s climate change policies place equity at their center.