University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law


Alice Kaswan

Library of Congress Authority File


This essay does not debate the political wisdom of suing; instead, it takes the suits as a given and attempts to enhance understanding of the environmental justice community’s climate justice agenda. It describes the role of environmental justice in the development of California’s climate law, AB 32, describes the lawsuits, and suggests some of the larger lessons about climate policy, cap-and-trade, and environmental justice that these lawsuits reveal. Ultimately, the environmental justice lawsuits highlight two primary themes: (1) the importance of a holistic approach to climate change policy that recognizes and integrates its multiple dimensions, including co-pollutant implications; and (2) more specifically, and moving beyond traditional environmental justice claims, the potential weaknesses and risks of cap-and-trade as a climate policy tool. The essay does not claim to resolve these complex policy debates. Nor does the essay focus on my own views on cap-and-trade and environmental justice (though these views inevitably inform the analysis to some degree). Instead, the essay’s goal is to provide perspective on the lawsuits and set the stage for a constructive path forward.