The lack of U.S. policy to mitigate climate change has severe consequences for the safety or survival of communities worldwide. Global warming and climate change may be the greatest coming threat to our collective security. Diminished resources and massive displacement due to rising seas, regional crop failures, destructive storms, and desertification are likely to fuel future armed conflicts as well as increase ongoing communal violence. Climate change is also a divisive political issue—and in order to address the coming challenges, we will need to find common ground.

About the Program

Through Transforming the Conversation on Carbon Pricing—a partnership with Pattern Change Lab—we work toward more collaborative, inclusive, effective action on climate change in the U.S. This project is currently entering Phase 2, with a more explicit focus on policy design.

Prior to this phase, Karuna Center worked together with Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Pricing Carbon Initiative, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby to create a constructive space for people from very different perspectives to build trust and alignment in their work. The project has brought carbon pricing advocates (who seek a tax, or some kind of price, on carbon pollution) together with environmental justice leaders (who represent communities of color and low income communities impacted disproportionately by pollution). A key focus of these dialogues has been on ensuring that efforts to address overall emissions do not allow deadly racial and class disparities to continue.

We are very excited to launch Phase II of the project in January 2023. We will continue to focus on carbon pricing and environmental justice, putting trust-building and inclusive processes at the core of this work. However, participants will look more concretely at the impact of carbon pricing on equity and justice, and what policy design features are necessary to avoid negative impacts. Over the next two years, the project aims to:

  • Bring together a range of thought leaders engaged with environmental justice and carbon pricing, over a series of in-person retreats
  • Develop a detailed document with core design principles and guidance that can be used by state and federal policy-makers
  • Maintain relationships with frontline communities to ensure their concerns are understood, represented, and included
  • Support carbon pricing policy that addresses equity and justice concerns, and is actually inclusive and accountable to impacted communities
  • Move beyond naming common principles, to hash out the specifics of what equitable and just carbon pricing would actually look like—both in terms of the process, and in terms of actual policy components

These links between our environment, equity, justice, and health were thrust to the forefront again recently, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold with disproportionate impact in communities of color. Pollution sources are disproportionately sited in communities of color, causing higher rates of some “pre-existing conditions.” Research has further connected poor air quality with severe COVID-19. 

TCCP is the start of a conversation that we hope will increase understanding and respect for environmental justice in policy conversations about pricing carbon, and build common ground among a broader network to address climate change.

This initiative grew out of a partnership with Pricing Carbon Initiative (PCI), which is a broad network fostering dialogue and encouraging viable solutions that would put a price on carbon pollution in the US. We have partnered with PCI to hold national dialogues among stakeholders since 2011, when Karuna Center director Olivia Dreier helped plan and facilitate the Summit for Environmental Leaders that led to PCI’s formation. These dialogues are now held quarterly, and reach across the political aisle to involve more than 100 key organizations, ranging from environmentalists and progressive organizations to businesses and right-leaning think tanks.

In PCI and TCCP dialogues, carbon pricing is not treated as an alternative to regulation, reduced consumption, environmental protection, or alternative energy: it is considered as one pragmatic approach, among others, to potentially reduce emissions fast.

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More Than Just Talk: Dialogue and Environmental Justice

How can dialogue build common ground for equity and justice? What is the role of dialogue within our movements? How do we build effective alliances to end environmental injustice and support sustainability?

Our March 1, 2022 Karuna Connectors conversation with Olivia Dreier and Tina Johnson touched on these questions and more. For the past three years, Tina and Olivia have co-facilitated Transforming the Conversation on Carbon Pricing. This unique initiative brings a range of climate justice activists and policy advocates together for confidential dialogues that cultivate common ground.

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