Senate Considering False Promise of Cap and Trade
Front and Centered. That’s our aspiration. Our aim is to bring together Black, brown and Indigenous communities, who die disportionately too soon from environmental racism, into the forefront of the climate and environmental movement, to center solutions of racial equity toward a Just Transition in Washington State.
As industrial fence-line neighborhoods, farm workers, Black community organizers, Indigenous women-led organizations, Latinx young leaders, Asian and Pacific Islander elders, immigrants, and refugees, and many more, we will not give up on our vision that no community should be sacrificed to pollution and climate impacts, and that our communities can thrive in the transition off fossil fuels.
Together, we strive toward our shared goals, acknowledging how much work there is still to do to build collective power so that we all achieve a Just Transition together.
We have much work to do to learn from and build solidarity with Tribal nations who we honor as sovereign land stewards and the protectors of mother Earth. We recognize the complexity of sovereign power and jurisdiction, and respect the independent power of Tribal governments to engage in independent diplomacy and compacts as government to government consultation.
We are committed to working in solidarity with Black communities who remain the primary target of polluters, whether in Tacoma, southwest Washington, or statewide.
We will work for justice alongside Latinx communities from the farmlands of Skagit Valley, Omak, Sunnyside, and the Tri-cities.
We continue to stand and support our API communities who are being targeted with violence here and across the country.
The Front and Centered Coalition is here to build solidarity. We are a growing and diverse coalition and we will not be divided in this struggle for the health and prosperity of all people. We stand with our communities and we take coalition positions after hosting listening sessions, gathering data, learning from the lived experience of other communities, and rigorous debate. We hold true to our vision of solidarity and refuse to be sacrificed even in the face of tremendous pressure, because our decisions are grounded in the experiences of our communities who are literally fighting for their lives. We will not accept false promises.
Front and Centered opposes the cap and trade mechanism in SB 5126. Cap and Trade promises a solution to fossil fuel pollution and climate change, but it doesn’t deliver. It allows that toxic pollution to continue unabated through the trading of “allowances” to pollute, through “offsets” that undermine a cap, and through creating pollution marketplace and carve-outs where buying, banking, and selling of allowances is prioritized over cutting emissions.
We cannot trade or offset the ability of our communities to breathe. SB 5126’s promise to our communities is to fix any EJ failures after the fact through regular “reviews.” That is not justice. Nor is climate justice about just adding-on equity language to pre-existing policies. Equity is not an adder or an option. It’s about solving the climate crisis through environmental justice; the leadership and decision-making of, and real improvement in the health and well-being of the Black, brown, and Indigenous communities overburdened by pollution in solving the problem. We demand an immediate end to the air pollution in our state, the prevention of pollution and mitigation of past harm, including the pollutants that cause climate change.
While we may disagree on policy approaches, all of us who are working for healthier communities, cleaner air, environmental justice, and Tribal sovereignty are on the same side. We need systemic solutions to systemic problems. We have learned from BIPOC leaders that have come to Washington State to share their lessons over the last few years, including all the communities in California who have lived and experienced cap and trade as a false promise, and promoted strategies to stop pollution at the source.
We know corporate interests and major polluters continue to oppose the solutions that frontline communities really need and demand. The Western States Petroleum Association is both supporting Cap & Trade in California, while opposing it (for the moment) in Washington. British Petroleum (BP), who spent more than $13 million against I-1631, which had broad support, is underwriting the pro cap and trade campaign and helping write the law in Washington. BP knows how to work cap and trade to their advantage from their experience in California, and has policymakers tinkering with solutions at the margin while our ecosystems that support life are collapsing.
We know legislators are also under tremendous pressure to support cap and trade. Driven by real urgency to act on climate, a desire for revenue, and a fear that voters will strike down any measure they pass. Abandoning the consensus framework of I-1631 and following polling, they are being told that if they can hide the tax that’s inside cap and trade from voters, that voters will be fooled. Voters will not be fooled. Any cap and trade referendum will be communicated as a tax. We have learned through our work that success at the ballot will only come through deeper education in the need to invest, statewide. As to the investment of revenue, conservative Democrats and Republicans are seeking to package any carbon revenues in a deal to primarily fund highways, which would further perpetuate the problem we’re trying to solve. For the legislators who are under pressure and are standing with environmental justice communities, know that we have your back.
Our solutions are rooted not in what we can get or the current political tradewinds, but on what our communities really need. We worked on I-1631 side by side with Tribes, labor leaders, environmental leaders, elders, doctors and more, not because we thought putting a price on carbon was going to end pollution, but because it was clear Washington state needs investments in a Just Transition to low carbon society that prioritize our most impacted communities.
A tax or fee is a transparent way to raise revenue. Similarly, a clear declining limit on what major polluters can emit (with a just transition for workers) is a transparent way to reduce emissions that avoids complicated accounting schemes. These two ideas should not be conflated. We invite all communities to join us in crafting policy that sacrifices no one, which will benefit everyone, and builds a world in which all communities and the earth can thrive.
WASHINGTON IS UNIQUELY POISED
We are proud to support and have the support of Representative Lekanoff, the only Native American in the state legislature, in many of our legislative priorities, who, along with Senator Lovelett, are offering real solutions. We are grateful to be aligned on this issue with worker organizations like Familias Unidas Por La Justicia and UFCW-21, with climate leaders like the Sunrise Movement and Washington 350 organizations statewide. We still need revenue for this transition. But those revenue needs cannot be raised on the backs of our communities. Our budget forecast has vastly improved and the federal government is preparing to spend millions of dollars for the clean energy transition so we should make sure to get it right here at home and not rush in the wrong direction. We also know that, looking toward the future, ground breaking ideas are poised to move us all toward “the other Washington,” and we must lead by example.
Ultimately there is no silver bullet in a Just Transition, it is a transformation in all parts of our economy that requires policies in each sector and a cultural, political, and economic shift. Fortunately, we have hundreds of solutions. We must do the work and have the patience and urgency necessary to get it right. Our communities here at home, our ancestors, our grandchildren, frontline communities across the country, and the world are counting on us. And we won’t let them down.