Advancing Racial Equity Through Climate Policy: Environmental, Economic and Health Equity Outcomes and Implications of CA's Climate Investment Program

Principal Investigators
University of Southern California
Funded on

While climate change and pollution hurt everyone, communities of color suffer first and worst. As a minority state, California cannot reach its ambitious climate and energy goals without addressing the most polluted areas in the state. Existing climate change policies and programs have not adequately ensured green solutions and technologies benefit disadvantaged communities. Communities of color and low-income communities too often lack access to green programs, resources, and opportunities and environmental investments frequently fail to reach the communities most in need.  

Senate Bill 535 and Assembly Bill 1550, combined, require the state to dedicate a minimum of 35 percent of revenues raised through Cap-and-Trade to communities that are environmentally overburdened and socially vulnerable. This was an explicit effort to promote health, economic, and racial equity in California's climate policy strategy.

This project will research and evaluate the implementation of the $12.6 billion California Climate Investment program (SB 535 and AB 1550) in creating solutions that promote health, economic, and racial equity in environmentally disadvantaged communities, asking:  

  1. What are the equity outcomes associated with the implementation of SB 535 and AB 1550?  

  1. How do implemented projects perform against the Greenlined Economy Community Investment Standards and USC's Measures Matter recommendations with regards to definitions of equity, implementation processes, and equity metrics?  

  1. What are the equity strengths and weaknesses of the program design?  

  1. Have any strategies emerged that address racial disparities through structural interventions implemented via the program?  

This analysis will provide invaluable insight as to how federal, state, and local governments can advance climate change investments in ways that maximize equity outcomes, incorporate community perspectives, and create conditions where people, planet, and prosperity can thrive. Specifically, the research study will highlight successful practices from California that are primed for replication, as well as address program shortcomings for improvement.