Climate Equity Alliance Establishes Principles For Green Economic Reform

As corporate lobbyists and conservative politicians strive to maintain a pollution-based economy, a new progressive alliance has formed to fight back. The Climate Equity Alliance is calling for policies to ensure that energy legislation reaches President Obama’s desk benefiting people instead of polluters. The green economy legislation introduced in draft form by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) — sets national standards for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and global warming pollution — but leaves open whether polluters will be subsidized to achieve those standards.

Today, more than two dozen organizations from the research, advocacy, faith-based, labor and civil rights communities came together as the Climate Equity Alliance. Alliance members include the Center for American Progress, Green for All, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Service Employees International Union. Their principles recognize that clean energy legislation needs to be sustainable, honest, and fair:

Protect people and the planet: Limit carbon emissions at a level and timeline that science dictates.

Maximize the gain: Build an inclusive green economy providing pathways into prosperity and expanding opportunity for America’s workers and communities.  — Minimize the pain: Assist low and moderate income families in meeting their basic needs.

Shore up resilience to climate impacts: Assure that those who are most vulnerable to the direct effects of climate change are able to prepare and adapt.

Ease the transition: Address the impacts of economic change for workers and communities.

Put a price on global warming pollution and invest in solutions: Capture the value of carbon emissions for public purposes and invest this resource in an equitable transition to a clean energy economy.

The Climate Equity Alliance’s recognition that attention needs to be paid to global boiling impacts is critical, as every state in the nation already suffers from major climate-related costs — costs which will continue to rise as the planet heats up. The full list of members is below.


The alliance specifically calls for “public and private investments that help rebuild and retrofit our nation,” “training and job readiness programs,” “direct consumer rebates” to low- and moderate-income households, “assistance and tools” for workers in carbon-intense industries, and the use of carbon price revenues to invest in the public good, instead of “windfall profits for corporations.”

On Friday, a separate coalition of state-level climate and environmental justice organizations will speak out in support of Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Cap and Dividend Act (H.R. 1862), introduced last week. Van Hollen’s proposal calls for all revenues of a cap and trade system to be returned in flat rebate to all citizens. Social entrepreneur Peter Barnes, a prominent advocate of the “dividend” approach, has explained how these rebates reward efficiency:

Those who burn more carbon will pay more than those who burn less. If you drive a sports-utility vehicle, you’ll use more sky than if you ride a bus; hence you’ll pay more scarcity rent. Since your dividend is the same no matter what, you’ll come out ahead if you conserve [energy] and lose money if you don’t.

Despite Barnes’ misguided, libertarian reasoning that cap and dividend is needed because government can’t be trusted to invest money in the public good, the proposal does reward work instead of pollution. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated, allocating 14 percent of cap-and-trade revenues makes the transition to clean energy a positive economic gain for low- and moderate-income households — even before the rewards of a healthier economy and planet are delivered. President Obama’s plan to fund a middle-class tax cut with climate revenues also ensures at least $15 billion a year are allocated for green public investment.

Legislators return to Washington with a week of hearings on the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act on April 20th, less than two weeks away.

Founding members of the Climate Equity Alliance:

  • Center for American Progress
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Citizens for Tax Justice
  • Center for Law and Social Policy
  • Coalition on Human Needs
  • Democracia Ahora
  • Economic Policy Institute
  • Enterprise Community Partners
  • First Focus
  • Green For All
  • National Hispanic Environmental Council
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • Oxfam America
  • Policy Link
  • Redefining Progress
  • Service Employees International Union
  • The Workforce Alliance
  • Union for Reform Judaism
  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • US Action
  • The Washington Office of Public Policy, Women’s Division, United Methodist Church
  • Wider Opportunities for Women

Organizations supporting cap and dividend:

  • Montana Environmental Information Center (MT)
  • Fresh Energy (MN)
  • Penn Future (PA)
  • New Energy Economy (NM)
  • Center for Civic Policy (NM)
  • Climate Protection Campaign (CA)
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD/VA/DC)
  • Plains Justice (IA)
  • New York Public Interest Research Group (NY)
  • South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (SC)
  • Ohio Citizen Action (OH)


At the Huffington Post, Green For All president Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins explains that the Climate Equity Alliance represents how choosing between “environment vs. the economy — is a false choice”:

Strong climate legislation can, and must, be strong economic legislation.

If done right, climate policy can fight pollution and alleviate poverty at the same time. The shift to a low-carbon, clean, green economy can create large numbers of quality green-collar jobs for American workers, and lower energy bills for American households. A federal climate bill must deliberately advance principles of fairness, opportunity, and equal access.