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Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Lessons from the California Lawsuits
San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law (2014)
  • Alice Kaswan

Beginning in June 2009, environmental justice groups brought several controversial lawsuits against California’s climate change program, sparking concern in the mainstream environmental community that the actions would frustrate the state’s climate progress and discourage other states from taking action. This essay, prepared for the University of San Diego’s symposium on “California in the Spotlight: Successes and Challenges in Climate Change Law,” does not pass judgment on the decision to sue. Instead, it uses the lawsuits as a jumping off point for understanding the environmental justice critique of California’s cap-and-trade program, a key feature of the state’s implementation of its climate change law.

Ultimately, the environmental justice lawsuits offer two primary lessons: (1) the value of a holistic approach to climate change policy that recognizes and integrates its multiple dimensions, including co-pollutant implications; and (2) the potential weaknesses of cap-and-trade as a climate policy tool. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision to sue or with California’s use of cap-and-trade, the essay is intended to offer a constructive path forward by moving beyond conflict toward a deeper understanding of the lawsuits’ merits.

  • climate change,
  • global warming,
  • AB 32,
  • environmental justice,
  • cap-and-trade,
  • offsets
Publication Date
Citation Information
Alice Kaswan. "Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Lessons from the California Lawsuits" San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law Vol. 5 (2014)
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