Tuesday, April 29, 2008

market-based environmental legislation and environmental justice

i think that the push for more flexible, market-based environmental legislation should not proceed unchecked. i do not think that the only alternative to market measures is command and control. this dichotomy has been kicking around for some time, leading to the impression that there is a constant tension between those who are unbridled free marketeers and staunch government intervention advocates. how ridiculous. vilifying markets is completely nonsensical, we know that they are good for some things, less good for others, and irrelevant to still others. if designed properly, they can work well. this is the issue—implementation. i do not believe that we should simply commoditize everything and let markets sort it out. as currently designed, many markets do not work (see: food crisis, climate change). others are starting to work, but it takes time to get the correct set up (see: EU-ETS). the problem is if industry gets a free pass as a result of market measures and somehow can avoid compliance. i believe that if programs are thoughtfully designed, then the problems disappear.

this is not a widely held opinion in the environmental justice (EJ) community—a community that i identify with and am trying to inform through some of my own analysis. they have recently wholesale rejected emissions trading of any kind to assist with the implementation of AB32 in california. in so doing, they have effectively left the table from the national level negotiations as well (not that they were well-represented there either, but a success for EJ in california would have likely translated into progress for federal legislation). near as i can tell, the issues presented by the EJ community against trading for climate change mitigation stem from the experiences with emissions trading schemes designed to mitigate criteria pollutants. of course, with these pollutants, localized impacts can occur when flexibility is afforded to business and they choose to not reduce emissions in one location or even to ramp up emissions since they can purchase extra credits. however, applying this type of frame to climate change issues is not necessarily warranted. as many know and understand, carbon dioxide is a global pollutant—it has no localized effects. co-pollutants are generated where carbon dioxide is emitted, but i have yet to see a rigorous analysis of whether there are genuine issues related to hotspot formation under a carbon emissions trading scheme. everything i've looked at surrounding AB32 applies thinking gleaned from the RECLAIM program directly to carbon trading. the EJ community shouldn't simply go in for this. if they oppose carbon trading with improper analysis they lose their seat at the negotiating table. flat out opposition of trading is not tenable. it must be backed up with analysis that is appropriate to the system under study.

1 comment:

kaya said...

meow i really like how you pulled this all together, .