For those of you working with, advocating for, or just plain concerned about low-income families, there is a new issue on the horizon that requires your immediate attention…climate-change.
And I don’t just mean worrying about how changes in the climate are impacting low-income communities, but how responses to climate-change will impact these families. At both the regional and federal level, policymakers are considering proposals that will place a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. Which is great…there is an urgent need to fight global warming.
However, capping greenhouse gas emissions will inevitably impact the cost of energy, transportation, food, and other goods and services. And that will hit low-income families particularly hard since these items make up a larger share of their budget, and they have less flexibility to adapt to the changes in price. A national analysis found that a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions could cost the poorest fifth of Americans (those making about $13,000 a year) an average of $750 per household.
Don’t be discouraged – we can fight global warming without pushing low-income families deeper into poverty. But that means implementing a “cap-and-trade” system that auctions off greenhouse-gas allowances to utility companies in order to raise public revenues that can be used to offset impacts on low-income communities.
But that may not happen unless you get involved in this debate…immediately.
There is a lot happening right now. At the federal level, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 is being considered in the U.S. Senate. And Minnesota has joined several other states in our region to set up the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, which expects to propose a cap-and-trade agreement by this November.
We’ll continue to keep you informed on this issue (I’ve blogged on this before), but it is important for those who are concerned about low-income folks to start talking to state and federal policymakers (as well as their friends in environmental communities) to ensure that any cap-and-trade system…
- auctions off allowances in order to raise public funds.
- uses a portion of the public funds raised to offset the impact of climate-change legislation on low-income families.
- uses mechanisms specifically designed to reach low-income families.
If we sit on the sidelines and wait to be asked, chances are the agreements will be made and the money will be distributed without carefully considering the unique challenges climate-change legislation will present to low-income families.