FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DATE: July 6, 2000
Contact: Michele Gale-Sinex, (510) 444-3041 ext. 316
Report on Kyoto Protocol ignores climate change impacts on minority communities;
neglects safeguards on minority communities' economic well-being
SAN FRANCISCO - A recent report on the economic impacts of the Kyoto Protocol fails to acknowledge the potential dangerous impacts of climate change on Blacks and Hispanics, says Redefining Progress.
The report in question, Refusing to Repeat Past Mistakes, published by a consortium of seven groups and funded by the coal industry, focuses on the economic impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on Blacks and Hispanics. However, according to Redefining Progress Executive Director Joanne Kliejunas, "This report is turning up the heat on the wrong issue. Climate change itself presents serious danger to these communities. This report ignores research demonstrating that many climate change policies can protect the climate while safeguarding the U.S. economy and the economic well being of minority and vulnerable citizens."
"As U.S. policymakers decide how to combat global warming, they must consider the social, economic, and health consequences of climate change and emission reduction policies on our most vulnerable communities," said Kliejunas. "Fairness and the economic well being of these communities is critical and must be a prominent part of the global warming debate-which is not presently the case."
Conducted over a period of three years, Redefining Progress's research shows that low-income and minority households will suffer the most from the impacts of uncontrolled climate change, as described by a majority of the world's leading scientists. Choosing the wrong policies to deal with climate change will also unduly burden these households. Further, this research and that of others shows that minority communities and all citizens can be protected from both harms if policymakers charge polluters and return the bulk of the revenue to citizens, while using the rest to ease the transition to a clean energy economy. Among those research findings are these:
Climate change will hurt minority communities' overall health and reduce discretionary spending. Minority communities-already burdened with poor air quality and twice as likely to be uninsured as whites-will become even more vulnerable to climate-change related respiratory ailments, heat-related illness and death, and illness from insect-carried diseases. Climate change will likely raise food and energy prices, which already represent a large proportion of a low-income family's budget. (See "What's Fair? Consumers and Climate Change.")
Charging polluters for the emissions that cause global warming and returning the revenue to citizens will protect minority communities' incomes and discretionary spending. Redefining Progress estimates that charging polluters $25 per ton of carbon could cost the average household about $196 per year. However, that same household could receive $262 through a direct rebate program or $285 each year if payroll taxes were reduced. "Low-income households could experience a net gain under this policy option," points out Paige Brown, Redefining Progress Climate Change Project director. "That's because their annual fossil fuel expenditure is likely to be lower than their annual rebate or tax reduction." (See "Priming the Pump: How Pollution Charges Combined with Revenue Recycling Help the U.S. Economy and Citizens.")
Protecting the U.S. economy will protect minority communities' jobs and incomes. Over 2,500 economists, including eight Nobel laureates, have stated that market mechanisms like charging polluters can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming U.S. living standards and may even improve productivity. (See "The Economists' Statement on Climate Change.")
Charging polluters will create a dedicated revenue source to protect those most vulnerable to climate change itself and resulting fossil fuel price increases. Less than five percent of the pollution revenue could provide home energy assistance to every low-income household in the U.S. Even using the most pessimistic estimates of the impacts of fossil fuel price increases, about two-thirds of the pollution revenue could completely compensate and retrain displaced workers, balance declines in wage growth, and recoup investor loss. (See "What's Fair? Consumers and Climate Change" and "What's Fair? Workers, Investors, and Climate Change".)
Says Kliejunas, "The U.S. is more likely to see economic and health benefits from slowing global warming." She points out that researchers and economists not funded by the coal industry found that the U.S. can reduce emissions even beyond Kyoto levels with a net savings in energy costs and an improvement in U.S. productivity. For instance, the Tellus Institute estimates that nearly 900,000 jobs would be created out of the adoption of fair climate policies.
"There's another reason for the U.S. to take strong action on the climate change front," says Kliejunas. "Climate change poses one of the greatest moral challenges humanity has ever faced. Until the moral dimensions of climate change are made more evident, the policies now being framed will fall short of what is needed to care for people and the planet. Whatever the control mechanism for addressing climate change, it must generate revenue-by auctioning permits or charging polluters-that can then be used to mitigate climate change impacts and ease climate change policy impacts on the most vulnerable groups."
Redefining Progress is a nonpartisan nonprofit policy research organization that seeks to ensure a more sustainable and socially equitable world. RP asserts the moral responsibility and fiscal sense of addressing the needs of people and nature in growing the economy. RP advocates the development of accurate monetary and nonmonetary indicators of social and economic well being, as well as incentive-based policies that will stimulate genuine progress. For additional information, see http://www.rprogress.org.
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