California’s Cap & Trade for the Community

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) was an achievement for putting a hard cap on carbon emissions in California, and instituted a cap and trade system within the state.  All of the proceeds were placed into a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. In fall of 2012 another bill, SB 535 was passed by the California legislature which allocated 25% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction fund to be used for projects that would benefit disadvantaged communities. These disadvantaged communities were identified using CalEnviroScreen, created by the Environmental Protection Agency using mapping technology to find areas with the highest poverty and pollution. (Learn more about the tool follow this link

This year the funds will be released from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction to be divided between the communities. The estimate for the first release is about 272 million dollars that can only be used to fund efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the identified disadvantaged communities. Such as increased public transit, affordable housing built on TOD sites, renewable energy, and updating weatherization on homes located in the disadvantaged neighborhoods. One program I would like to highlight is the Electric Car Sharing in Under-served Communities which is being spearheaded by The Greenlining Institute. The institute is advocating for an electric car sharing service to be located in under-served areas to aid residents to reach other modes of transportation and make services more accessible to those who are in need of them. There is only one vehicle sharing service operating in a low income neighborhood, Bayview in San Francisco. The hope to leverage some of the SB 535 funds to fund infrastructure improvements, like charging stations, electric vehicles, and insurance needs of running a car sharing service. While there will still be some barriers to use such as a clean driving record, being over the age of 21, and having a valid driver’s license for at least 12 month before being able to participate in the service. The institute has also come up with some solutions to allow residents with bad credit to still be able to participate, such as requiring reservations so the ride is prepaid and not dependent on credit. They also proposed to allow EBT funds to be used for the alternative transportation service. Along with the service the institute would also push for a community based outreach effort to educate residents on the concept of car sharing, how to pair it with mass transit, and the functions of an electric car.

While there are still major questions and a pilot program has yet to be implemented, I feel this is an innovative solution to reducing carbon emissions especially in areas that are already disproportionately exposed to pollution. Furthermore, affordable housing options for low income populations are predominately located in outlying areas that would cause them to make more trips in a vehicle if mass transit was inaccessible. Electric car sharing is just one service that could be made possible through the SB 535 and more importantly illustrates how a cap and trade system can be utilized beyond a simple taxation lens to reach a broader goal of social and environmental equity.

Looking to learn more about SB 535 or the Electric Car Share program check out Greenlining Institute’s Publications


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