Global Warming Law Shifts Responsibility from Polluters to Poor Communities

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Communities in California and Mexico have organized to oppose a cap-and-trade plan that could shift the burden from polluters to poor communities.

California leads the United States in energy efficiency and is often hailed as a global beacon of environmental protection; at the same time, it is the 12th largest emitter of carbon dioxide worldwide, making the state a significant driver of climate change. In 2006 California passed The Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32. It mandated that the greenhouse emissions be reduced to the levels of what they were in 1990, by 2020. Up to 20 percent of the state’s total mandated emissions reductions would be achieved through carbon trading with other countries, rather than through actual cuts in industrial pollution in California. This means that industries would be permitted to delay efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As one of his last acts in office, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed agreements with the states of Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil for a state-to-state cap-and-trade agreement as part of AB32. This part of the bill has surprising implications for the remote area of southeastern Mexico. The former California governor set in motion a process that will not only fail to reduce industrial contamination in California, but has now lead to forced displacement of poor communities in Chiapas. The emerging mechanism known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) has been implemented as the world’s first sub national cap and trade agreement.  REDD aims to make forests more valuable standing than they would be cut down, by creating a financial value for the carbon stored in trees.

As part of this agreement some communities in Chiapas have been forcibly removed from their lands, while others have signed agreements to go willingly. During the negotiation-process, the federal and state governments promised them new land that would be have everything a sustainable community needs.  What they received in most cases has been far from this.  In consequence,indigenous peasant farmers in the remote jungle of southeastern Mexico have partnered with two California-based organizations, Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment and Communities for a Better Environment  to oppose the cap-and-trade plan.

Cap-and-trade is a great example of a market-based policy that patently fails to look at its non-economic impacts. The government has turned land, life, and livelihoods into market commodities for the benefit of global elites.


“Global Warming Law Shifts Responsibility from Polluters to Communities”, Jeff Conant, Alternet, (article and slideshow) April 21, 2011,


“Outsourcing Global Warming Solutions”, Jeff Conant, Global Justice Ecology Project, June 23, 2011,


“Chiapas: Road-Blocks and Denunciations of Relocated Community of Nuevo Montes Azules”, SIPAZ Blog, March 25, 2011,


Student Researcher: Elizabeth Marinovich, San Francisco State University

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows, San Francisco State University