Gov. Brown will sign two important climate bills in California, one declaring the state's new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission levels 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and one prioritizing direct regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by large sources in the climate policy administered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Obviously, the first bill sets an admirable goal that other states should emulate, either by legislation or by executive order. The second bill, however, is very interesting because of the environmental justice component. EJ advocates have been critical of California climate policy because of its tilt toward the rich, e.g. subsidizing electric car purchases, and because the cap-and-trade component lets polluters in disadvantaged neighborhoods have a way to keep polluting, by buying allowances and credits from places where reductions might be cheaper, and leaving the adverse health impacts of the stuff that usually comes with GHGs in place.
Last year, those concerns, added to the usual fossil fuel industry pressure, torpedoed the legislation. This year, the EJ folks got some of the policy changes they wanted, and the fossil fuel industry was on its own trying to defeat the bills. If/when states like Minnesota get serious about new climate policy initiatives, it will be important to keep social equity and justice issues in mind. It's not just a numbers game.