June 24, 2015
Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to social, economic, and racial justice here in Washington State and across the world; and it’s happening right here, right now. Our jobs, health, and communities are the prices we pay for escalating climate impacts like polluted air, severe weather, and drought. But not all of us are impacted the same. Communities of color and those with lower incomes are the first and worst impacted by the brunt of global warming. That’s why getting it right, with equitable, inclusive policies is so important. Initiative 732, created by a group called ‘CarbonWA,’ fails this test and lacks the grassroots coalition to tackle the most pressing and interrelated issues of our time; climate and equity.
Communities of color and lower income communities are experiencing asthma in higher rates, increasingly polluted neighborhoods, income loss as workers in frontline industries and in farmlands, and are economically barred from accessing clean energy, transportation and housing. Worse, these communities have contributed the least to this crisis, and the fossil fuel industry is holding hostage proven solutions that align climate advocates with movements fighting for economic and health justice. Winning will take both the organizing strength and policy brainpower that only an inclusive campaign can achieve.
Last year, a community of organizations including: Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, Community-to-Community, Got Green, El Centro Del La Raza, Latino Community Fund, OneAmerica, Puget Sound Sage, and Washington Community Action Network came together to hold fossil fuel industry climate polluters accountable in addressing social, economic, health, and food justice. This past January we helped form an inclusive statewide coalition with a mission that includes equity, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. Our diverse coalition includes faith, families, health, labor, business, environmental and justice communities calling for action to reduce pollution, create green jobs, and invest in communities of color and lower incomes.
As communities of color, we have grounded our position on climate justice through a set of shared principles to help shape and recognize good policy. The first principle is that equity – making sure people of color have access to the same voice and opportunities – are at the center. The second is that people of color and communities with lower incomes receive net-environmental and economic benefits. The third is for accountability and transparency that requires inclusive engagement and oversight by lower income communities and communities of color.
Carbon Washington’s Initiative 732, crafted without inclusive input, fails to equitably reinvest revenue from pricing carbon pollution. It relies on a flat payout using the same regressive sales tax structure that has made our state dead last in fairness. Put simply, CarbonWA confuses equity with treating everyone the same. It does carve out a slice for low income working family rebates, an important, unfunded tool. But working families are funded the same as preferential industry giveaways that won’t help workers. Justice should be the main meal, not a side dish. Communities of color and lower income people understand justice, and like the climate, they can’t wait any longer.
Together, we can do better, and we will. Climate policy must significantly reduce carbon pollution now. A successful and equitable policy centers investments in accessible alternatives to fossil fuels, a just transition for workers, and communities’ needs and participation. Without it, we simply won’t win.
As leaders working for racial and economic justice, we invite you to join our movement and campaign for action on climate justice now. Global warming, guarded by the fossil fuel industry, will accelerate racial and economic disparities, and proposals like Initiative 732 mask this reality. Together we can ensure equity is at the center of the climate movement. Join us by advocating for climate justice and support the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.