Close to Home: State can show the way on climate policy
As climate denial envelopes Washington, we call on local business, community and elected leaders to advance California's climate and social justice leadership by supporting Senate Bill 775, a remarkable piece of legislation now being considered by state lawmakers. The Center for Climate Protection has endorsed it unanimously, and we urge others to do the same.
SB 775, co-authored by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, would replace and vastly improve California's cap-and-trade system. Begun in 2013, cap and trade established a price on carbon, but it has been met with extreme market volatility, with auction proceeds fluctuating from $8 million to 60 times that much, at $500 million. One of the factors contributing to this volatility is uncertainty that the program will continue beyond 2020.
SB 775 would extend cap and trade beyond 2020 and provide further certainty by structuring a “price collar,” a protective option strategy that sets upper and lower limits for emission prices. It would also eliminate loopholes such as offsets and free allowances, be accountable for emission reductions and protect California businesses by keeping them from being undercut by out-of-state businesses.
Overall, the proposed bill would significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that the price on carbon reflects the actual cost of fossil fuel to our economy and environment. It would also help reverse the growing gap between rich and poor through a meaningful dividend program paid to California constituents. Dividends would be substantial and obvious rather than minute and hidden in utility bills as they are currently. They would address the regressive impact of rising fossil energy prices on working people.
Details for SB 775 are being deliberated. For example, what percentage of revenue will be allocated to newly established funds for dividends, energy research and infrastructure? The Center for Climate Protection favors the proposal of California's Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee, a prestigious group of nationwide experts. In 2010, this committee recommended that about 75 percent of the funds be returned to households as dividends, and about 25 percent be allocated to public investments, such as research and infrastructure.
As part of Sonoma County's climate and social justice leadership, we call on all nine Sonoma County cities and Sonoma County to support SB 775. Our local governments can join the city of Santa Monica, the first local government to endorse the proposed law, and help set the pace for other local governments in the state. Organizations besides the Center for Climate Protection that support the bill include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility - SF, Citizens' Climate Lobby, the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, the Coalition for Clean Air, Friends of the Earth, CalFACT, Sierra Club California (in concept) and the Greenlining Institute.
For 10 years, the Center for Climate Protection has advocated for a policy like SB 775. We have educated policymakers, stakeholders and the public with the aim of having a science- and market-based solution for California and the nation. Let us seize this opportunity to make SB 775 a reality and advance California's climate and social justice leadership.
Information about the bill and what you can do is available at climateprotection.org.
Jane Bender is the president of the Center for Climate Protection and a former mayor of Santa Rosa. Larry Robinson serves on the organization's board and is a former mayor of Sebastopol.