PHI Urges California Governor to Repay Cap-and-Trade Swiftly, to Maintain Progress on Climate Change and Health

by Jennifer Miller, PhD

ImageOn Friday the Public Health Institute, together with business groups, environmental organizations and an array of others, sent an open letter to California Governor Jerry Brown objecting to his decision to grab $500 million in cap-and-trade revenues for use in the state’s general fund.

As part of its landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, California set up a cap-and-trade system to utilize market forces to reduce carbon emissions. The state has already held several carbon auctions, the revenue from which is supposed to go towards climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

While the cap and trade system has flaws, most advocates agree that the financial support to address climate change directly comes at a time when it is desperately needed because climate change is worsening more quickly than anticipated. That is why we are disappointed and puzzled that Governor Brown’s budget revision “loans” $500 million to the general fund (out of an estimated $600 million total, from auctions in 2012-13 and auctions to be held in 2013-14), thereby gutting funding for the state’s efforts to protect against climate change.

By law a portion of cap-and-trade funds goes to activities to address the environmental and public health effects of climate change on the elderly, the very young and those communities most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. In our letter, PHI and its partners raise major concerns that this so-called loan – with an unclear payback timeline – puts those activities in doubt.

Diverting cap-and-trade revenues slows progress on addressing climate change at a time when it poses ongoing and increasing threats to health. For a governor who has expressed a strong commitment to fighting climate change, taking money away from climate change efforts is a disservice to public health and equity in California.

We therefore urge Governor Brown to protect public health and our environment by committing to repay this “loan” within this fiscal year of 2013-14, so that the critical, pressing work to prevent and address climate change can proceed. The health of our communities demands it.

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