Publication Detail

Best in Show? Climate and Environmental Justice Policy in California


Journal Article

Suggested Citation:
Sze, Julie, Gerardo Gambirazzio, Alex Karner, Dana Rowangould, Jonathan London, Debbie A. Niemeier (2009) Best in Show? Climate and Environmental Justice Policy in California. Environmental Justice 2 (4), 179 - 184

In this article, we outline the important role that environmental justice organizations played in the development of AB 32, California's landmark climate change legislation (AB 32) in ensuring that a wide range of environmental justice ideas were incorporated into policy. We distinguish between the formal elements contained in the legislation and the discursive impacts, particularly in relation to public health concerns and about cap and trade and market mechanisms. Drawing from interviews, public documents, and legislative archives, we document the process by which these diverse environmental justice elements were incorporated into AB 32 to ask a seemingly simple question. Is California really “best in show” when it comes to climate and environmental justice policy? The complex politics involved in the drafting and passage of the legislation show to what extent environmental justice organizations played in AB 32's passage. We then argue that understanding the contentiousness in how AB 32 was drafted lends insight and context to the ongoing conflicts over the implementation of AB 32, specifically the role of cap and trade and market mechanisms more generally. Given the historical and continuing prominence of California in national and environmental policy development, the intersection of environmental justice movements with the development of state policy, described here, has larger implications for the broader climate justice movement and the complicated engagement between social movements and policy-making.