Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

The Path to Climate Solutions Starts with Environmental Justice

2022 California Climate Change Scoping Plan Update

The path to climate solutions starts with environmental justice. For generations, big polluters have put oil refineries, oil and gas wells, and dirty power plants in working class communities of color. As a result, our communities have experienced higher rates of childhood asthma, respiratory illness, cancer, and autoimmune disease.  

We’ve seen that pollution from dirty oil and gas doesn’t just impact our neighborhoods, it threatens every neighborhood by destabilizing our climate and intensifying extreme weather like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and typhoons. Environmental justice communities have been at the forefront of advancing climate solutions that protect our health and stabilize our climate.

For over a decade, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) leadership has advanced climate policies like cap and trade and carbon offsets that let big polluters off the hook and turn working class communities of color into environmental sacrifice zones. Instead of meaningfully partnering with environmental justice communities to develop Climate Change Scoping Plans and resulting policies that protect our health and stabilize our climate, they’ve brought us to the table only to disregard our recommendations. Read the 2020 assessment of the California Air Resources Board in our annual Agency Assessment.

With new leadership at CARB, the Board has an opportunity to change course and ensure that the communities most impacted by their decisions are treated as equal partners in developing the 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update. 

Over the next year, a new Environmental Justice Advisory Committee will engage community members up and down the state to develop a set of recommendations for the 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update.  We need your support to make sure that our voices are heard, and our recommendations implemented.

Will you stand with California’s environmental justice communities in advancing real climate solutions that protect our health and stabilize our climate?

What is the California Climate Change Scoping Plan?

In 2006, the California State Legislature passed the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), which required the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop a comprehensive plan for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.  In 2016, the Legislature extended this target to achieve greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.  The Scoping Plan serves as a blueprint for how California will meet these targets.

The California Climate Change Scoping Plan was first approved by CARB in 2008 and is updated every five years.  

What is the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee?

AB 32 required that CARB convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to advise the Board in developing the scoping plan and in any other pertinent matters related to implementing AB 32.  The EJAC is made up of representatives from communities in the state with the most significant exposure to air pollution, including communities with minority or low-income populations. 

For each Scoping Plan and Update, the EJAC has held community meetings up and down the state, gathered input from the people who would be most impacted by decisions made in the Scoping Plan, and submitted recommendations to CARB to inform the planning process.

In the past, the EJAC has been kept siloed away from the central Air Resources board planning process. This year, CARB leadership has voiced the need to include environmental justice in every part of the planning. 

It’s up to us to ensure the EJAC is meaningfully engaged throughout the scoping plan process. 

Environmental Justice and the 2008 Climate Change Scoping Plan

It was clear from the outset that both the Governor and CARB leadership planned to make cap-and-trade central to the state’s 2008 Climate Change Scoping Plan. The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee recommended throughout the process that CARB study and compare the impacts that major emissions reduction mechanisms – including cap-and-trade, carbon tax, and direct emissions reductions – would have on communities that were already facing the greatest pollution burdens.

CARB refused to study the potential impacts of cap-and-trade and steamrolled the committee’s other recommendations to move forward with the program.  Most of the EJAC members from this previous round resigned and many sued the state for ignoring the disproportionate pollution burdens that the cap-and-trade program would put on working class communities of color.  

Environmental Justice and the 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update

In December 2015, CARB convened a new Environmental Justice Advisory Committee for the 2017 Scoping Plan.  The EJAC conducted 9 community meetings and collected over 700 individual comments.  The 2017 EJAC recommendations included :

  1. Prioritize direct emission reductions, foremost, eliminating emissions through replacement with zero emission renewables, which is also necessary to meet climate and equity goals.
  2. Evaluate the full social cost savings and benefits of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reduction measures.
  3. Include direct regulation of GHGs and co-pollutants from refining and oil and gas production facilities, foremost a phaseout of oil extraction as directed by the Governor, in addition to planning decommissioning of oil refining.
  4. Eliminate offsets.

In total, the EJAC provided 198 specific recommendations. 

When CARB released the 2017 Scoping Plan, they cited their “extensive outreach with environmental justice organizations and disadvantaged communities.” Yet the Board did not include a single recommendation from the EJAC in the Scoping Plan.

Environmental Justice and the 2022 Scoping Plan Update

The new Environmental Justice Advisory Committee has convened to engage environmental justice communities in the planning process for the 2022 Scoping Plan. 

As workshops start this month, we encourage CARB staff and leadership to commit to the Principles of Environmental Justice and ensure meaningful community participation in the process. In order to do so, CARB staff must first share technical modeling documents with the EJAC, and ensure that all committee members are engaged at appropriate points in the planning process – not after the fact, which has unfortunately been the pattern and practice so far.

We urge staff and leadership to provide greater weight to the community-based expertise and experience of the EJAC, and in the meantime, advance four priority recommendations from the 2017 EJAC that are still overdue for implementation.

In 2021, we are committed to working for a just and equitable climate scoping plan process to realize the climate solutions that our communities deserve and our climate crisis needs.