To Address Climate Change

We are committed to bringing social and environmental justice to climate change policy. We live in, work on behalf of, or stand in solidarity with the people and communities that are hardest hit by the failure to control climate change. We know that these are the same people and communities who shoulder the crushing burden of the fossil-fuel infrastructure that is currently at the center of our energy portfolio. Those who live in the shadows of the oil wells, refineries, waste sites, power plants, freeways, manufacturing facilities, and good-movement corridors that sap health, endanger safety, and diminish quality of life. The opportunities in addressing climate change are great (green jobs, cleaner air, economic renewal, and a genuine transition to a clean energy future), while the risks of catastrophic climate collapse demand that we get the policy choices right.

The ultimate objective in designing climate change policy is to address climate change. Since the science is clear that the greatest human contribution to climate change is burning fossil fuel, the only way to seriously tackle our contribution is to change the way we make and use energy. If our policies do not achieve this principle objective, it is a mere distraction at best, or at worst, an actual barrier to achieving more effective policy approaches by squandering critically important time and resources.

Our voices combine with those of a multitude of others worldwide , that recognize that the stakes are too great to gamble on cap-and-trade (or pollution trading), offsets, and biofuels that fundamentally do not work to address climate change. In the 20 years worth of “experimenting” with pollution trading schemes, none of them have delivered the reductions promised, nor stimulated any notable innovation (See e.g., , and “Emissions Trading: A Mixed Record, with Plenty of Failures” .)

Here, we seek to educate and to create honest and inclusive dialogue about climate change policy choices in order to develop effective climate policies that support social and environmental justice.

If you have updates or other information that we should be made aware of, please email: nocarbontrading [at] If you are moved by the urgency to act AND the urgency to get it right, join us. Sign-on to our Declaration .

Updates & Activities:

  • Press Release - Download Document

  • Article - "Court could put California climate law on hold," Reuters, Mar. 31, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "California's global warming law takes a hit," NewsFeed Researcher, Mar. 22, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Update 2-California cap-and-trade plan faces setback," Reuters, Mar. 21, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "California's global warming law takes a hit," Silicon Valley, Mar. 21, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Another Wrench in AB32," KQED News, Mar. 21, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Court Deals Setback for California Cap and Trade,", Mar. 22, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Calif. cap-and-trade plan suffers legal setback," San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 22, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Judge places California's global warming program on hold," LA Times, Greenspace, Mar. 21, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "California Judge Orders Delay of Carbon-Market Rules to Study Alternatives," Bloomberg, Mar. 21, 2011. - Link to article.

  • Article - "Why EJ Groups are Leery of Cap & Trade," KQED News, Feb. 8, 2011. - Link to article.

Continuing to Debunk the Myths of Cap-and-Trade, Round 2
March 2009

Myth 1: Cap-and-Trade provides emissions certainty.

Many cap-and-trade proponents say they favor a cap-and-trade policy because it will provide “emissions certainty” by being able to quantify the number of permits distributed underneath the cap. Many of these same proponents, however, freely admit that once the program is loaded up with offsets, a politically negotiated cap, self-reporting of emissions, and other sources of “hot air” found in pollution trading programs the “cap” isn’t really that “certain” after all. Adding cost-containment mechanisms (e.g. a price ceiling or safety valve) also builds-in permission to exceed the cap.

Even if a stringent cap were established, the idea that the emissions cap is the most important feature is mistaken. What we know about climate science is that there is a lot we don’t know. We know that we must act quickly, but as science evolved it is more obvious that we must cut emissions more drastically than was believed even five years ago. Under the proposed “cap certainty” goal, we could achieve the desired cap and still not achieve the environmental goal. The “emissions certainty” crowd seems to forget that meeting the “cap” is not an end in itself. What we really need to do is move away from a fossil-fuel based energy economy.

On the other hand, designing a policy that sends a consistent price signal is the key to stimulating changed behavior, or the equivalent of telling a polluter “reduce your emissions, find a clean alternative, or pay.” In order for the entity to choose the first two options, the threat of “pay” must be sufficient and transparent enough to motivate changed behavior. When the price is hidden there is no motivation to change. If an entity can speculate that tomorrow the trading price will crash to as low as, for instance, the .04¢ per ton price paid under Phase I of the EU-ETS or to the $1.86 per ton “price floor” of RGGI, then it has no motivation to change its behavior today, nor for an indefinite time into the future blocking the path to achieving significant collective emissions reductions and necessary targets. A consistent price of, for instance, $12 per ton of CO2E in the near-term graduated up to, for instance, $50/ ton in x years, is better than a price that can spike dramatically, resting at the floor or surging to the ceiling causing all to hold their breath and speculate.

When the price is transparent (e.g. a graduated $50 tax in x year, possibly deferred temporarily but still providing certainty for budget-planning/ revenue-spending purposes), industry can plan ahead, make investments, reduce their emissions, and help transition us faster to a clean energy economy. Most economists have found that a carbon tax is the simpler approach and delivers a smoother price signal. (See e.g., Congressional Budget Office study .)

Claims that under either a tax or trade approach, that both are subject to gaming and similar sets of problems ignores the reality that the whole success of a trading program is dependent upon a perfectly orchestrated market subject to the vagaries of supply and demand and managed scarcity. Like building a house of cards, failure to properly establish any one element can topple the entire house. In the worst case scenario, you not only can get extreme prices (e.g. $300,000 for a pound of particulate matter in the L.A. basin’s air pollution trading program with no significant innovation), but you can also get low prices motivating no change, no net benefit to the climate, and a whole host of social equity problems ancillary to a pollution trading program. There are too many well-documented ways that “managed scarcity” or the allure of tightened caps can fail to be realized either through design folly, political reality, or forces majeure. To pick the program choice that has repeatedly failed and has the least likelihood of success goes against any notion of balancing risks (i.e. likelihood of program success) versus harms (i.e. catastrophic climate change.)

Myth 2: We cannot design a carbon tax because we don’t know what price to set.
Concerns about what price will be adequate to stimulate changed polluter behavior are irrelevant for three reasons: 1) the tax could be adjustable and or/flexible, and reviewed by an oversight board just as a price ceiling or floor would need to be reviewable under a trading program. 2) Designing a cap-and-trade scheme with a price control (e.g. a safety valve or price ceiling, which may be a requirement to address price volatility concerns), similarly requires setting the price at which to throw the price control switch. 3) Supporters of a trading system have calculated what the expected trading range for emissions credits would be and what that price’s impact would be. We have a very clear idea of the price range needed for this policy to succeed. Both systems require establishing a price and thus, this factor favors neither a tax or trade policy choice.

Myth 3: A trading program with a price control is a carbon tax.
There are many distinguishing features between a carbon tax (a market mechanism harnessing the power of the market by attaching a price on measurable carbon emissions) versus a carbon trading system (creating a massive market with traded permits, and free market rules and regulations.) (See, e.g., Carbon Tax Center .) Having to set a price floor or ceiling under a trading program will subject that program to the same pitfalls as a tax of having to set a price. On the other hand, having a transparent tax at the outset accomplishes the objective of a price signal without the pitfalls of managing scarcity, bogus carbon reductions being counted as real, complex trading rules and all of the other flaws that caused every one of the previous trading programs to fail.

Myth 4: We can afford to ignore a program choice’s likelihood of success.
If you believe that climate change is severe enough of a threat to warrant action, fighting for maximum program efficacy necessitates evidence-based policy comparisons. The untold reality of cap-and-trade is a mixture of the following: a long trail of failures , and a long list of problems endemic to pollution trading systems. Which, sure, we can try to continue to tinker around with, or we could decide to look objectively at alternatives knowing the risk of catastrophic climate change is too great to test fancy new free market design fixes using the world’s collective future as the petri dish.

Myth 5: Inevitability: trading is going to happen no matter what.
Inevitability is as likely as we make it. Don’t ever believe someone who tells you something is inevitable when they’ve got something to sell you. Or they’re trying to push you onto (or under) a train. Don’t ever get on a train without first asking the critical question of where are we going?

We hope that those interested in helping promulgate climate policy look at all of the evidence. We will not have what one think-tank has warned could be “the costliest mistake in human history” be a mistake with our name on it. We will not gamble our collective future for promises of money nor any slice of a pie that really means a doomed & contaminated future for all. The stakes are too great to ignore the great weight of evidence for or against particular climate policies. We hope that others will join us in an honest dialogue on these critical questions of efficacy in climate policy choices. We can’t afford not to get it right.

“The great danger of confronting peak oil and global warming isn’t that we will sit… and do nothing while civilization collapses, but that we will plunge after ‘solutions’ that will make our problems even worse. Like believing we can replace gasoline with ethanol, the much-hyped biofuel that we make from corn.” – “Ethanol Scam: Ethanol Hurts the Environment And Is One of America’s Biggest Political Boondoggles,” Rolling Stone , July 2007.

"The Cap-and-Trade Charade for Climate Change"
Overview - Part I

See the rest of this video and others here.

FACTSHEET: The Cap-and-Trade Charade for Climate Change

FACTSHEET: Theory vs. Reality--Debunking the Myths of Cap-and-Trade

FACTSHEET: Carbon "Offsets"--A lose-lose-lose scenario to address climate change

FACTSHEET: Why Climate Change Matters

The California Environmental Justice Movement’s Declaration on Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change

Nov. 20, 2008 - 150 EJ Advocates gathered to testify before the California Air Resources Board hearing to adopt the Proposed Scoping Plan

See pictures of rally here .

FACTSHEET: Info Packet on California's Scoping Plan.

July 29, 2008 - Press Conference held at final stakeholder meeting of Western Climate Initiative (WCI)

Social and Environmental Justice advocates gather at the final stakeholder meeting of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) on July 29, 2008. The WCI proposes to establish a regional trading scheme with 7 U.S. states, 73% of Canada's economy, and various regions of Mexico (see To download the Press Packet for our press conference, visit the Media Page .

June 26, 2008 - California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff recommend a regional cap-and-trade program

Download draft Scoping Plan . The Executive Summary is also available ( here .) The final version will be released October 2008 and go to the Board for adoption December 2008.

The Carbon Connection Documentary

Watch The Carbon Connection , a new documentary that examines the impact of carbon trading in two communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil local people's water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations. Both communities now share a new threat. As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution.

Environmental Justice Organizations Across the Country and Internationally Come Together to Support Real Reductions in Fossil Fuel Use to Address Climate Change

On June 2, 2008, floor debate begins on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S.2191) in the U.S. Senate. The bill would replicate the European Union’s experiment with cap-and-trade in the United States. The European Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) resulted in no net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, higher energy costs, and windfall profits to the worst polluters. Link to LA Times article . Click here for more information .

Today the Environmental Justice Forum on Climate Change , a coalition of Environmental Justice grassroots groups and activists, declared our lack of faith that trading mechanisms can address the present and impending climate change crisis. ( Download letter .) Furthermore, because this is the most critical issue of our time we called for a democratic dialogue on climate change inclusive of all communities and sectors of our economy.

Also, The California Environmental Rights Alliance sent a letter to every congressional office highlighting the fact that environmental justice organizations and activists throughout California and around the country stand in strong opposition to the use of trading and offsets in climate change policy. We are united in our support of policies that will fundamentally change the way we make and use energy and deliver true benefits to our communities and communities around the world.

We stand ready to work with all for real, effective and just climate action policies.

Add your voice to the growing effort to abandon the failed policy of carbon trading and offsets use -- Get Involved!

Environmental Justice Organizations in California release Declaration Against Carbon Trading Schemes and Offset Use to Address Climate Change

On February 19, 2008 Environmental Justice Organizations in California released The California Environmental Justice Movement's Declaration Against Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change.

Since the release of the Declaration people and organizations across California, the Country, and the World have added their voices to ours —calling for a rejection of trading schemes and offsets in favor of real reductions in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Listen to us talk about our effort on Living On Earth.

Emissions Trading is an approach that will not work to address the critically important task of reducing greenhouse gases. Read the two Los Angeles Times Editorials ( California's cap-and-trade won't work and Time to tax carbon ),  the Wall Street Journal Editorial ( Cap and Charade ), Michael Bloomberg’s position on trading as reported by the New York Times ( Bloomberg Calls for Tax on Carbon Emissions ), and Al Gore’s call for a carbon tax in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. See the long and growing list of opposition to trading on our Resources page. Even the Congressional Budget Office supports a carbon tax over a trading scheme (we advocate for a carbon fee in California.)

We believe there is a better way to ensure success of California’s greenhouse gas reductions efforts that also supports community health and long-term environmental sustainability: establishing policies that focus on moving the state away from fossil fuels because such fuels are the overwhelming contributor to climate change and have devastating impacts on low-income communities and communities of color. Such policies include:

  • Demand reduction (like energy efficiency from both industrial and residential activities);

  • Increase use of clean, non-nuclear renewables for energy production (by increasing the renewable portfolio standard that must be met by both investor-owned and municipal energy providers and by removing barriers to renewable deployment);

  • Putting a price on carbon by establishing a carbon fee and investing the proceeds in emissions reductions and speeding the development of California’s clean energy economy.

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