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Racing Climate Change: Collaboration and Conflict in California's Global Climate Change Policy Arena

UCD-ITS-RP-13-40

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Suggested Citation:
London, Jonathan, Alex Karner, Julie Sze, Dana Rowangould, Gerardo Gambirazzio, Debbie A. Niemeier (2013) Racing Climate Change: Collaboration and Conflict in California's Global Climate Change Policy Arena. Global Environmental Change 23 (4), 791 - 799

Media accounts routinely refer to California's Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, as “landmark” climate change legislation. On its surface, this label is an accurate reflection of the state's forward-thinking stance across many environmental issues including pesticides, toxic substances, solid waste, and air quality. For all its promise, however, AB 32 can also be considered a low point in the landscape of conflict between state environmental regulators and California's environmental justice movement. While the legislation included several provisions to address the procedural and distributive dimensions of environmental justice, the implementation of AB 32 has been marked by heated conflict. The most intense conflicts over AB 32 revolve around the primacy of market mechanisms such as “cap and trade.” This article examines the drivers and the manifestations of these dynamics of collaboration and conflict between environmental justice advocates and state regulators, and pays particular attention to the scalar and racialized quality of the neoliberal discourse. The contentiousness of climate change politics in California offers scholars and practitioners around the world a cautionary tale of how the best intentions for integrating environmental justice principles into climate change policy do not necessarily translate into implementation and how underlying racialized fractures can upend collaboration between state and social movement actors.

Keywords: Climate change policy, Environmental justice, racialization