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Coalitions that Clash: California's Climate Leadership and the Perpetuation of Environmental Inequality

The Politics of Inequality

ISBN: 978-1-83909-363-0, eISBN: 978-1-83909-362-3

Publication date: 19 July 2021


At a time when the US federal government failed to act on climate change, California's success as a subnational climate policy leader has been widely celebrated. However, California's landmark climate law drove a wedge between two segments of the state's environmental community. On one side was a coalition of “market-oriented” environmental social movement organizations (SMOs), who allied with private corporations to advance market-friendly climate policy. On the other side was a coalition of “justice-oriented” environmental SMOs, who viewed capitalist markets as the problem and sought climate policy that would mitigate the uneven distribution of environmental harms within the state. The social movement literature is not well equipped to understand this case, in which coalitional politics helped one environmental social movement succeed in its policy objectives at the expense of another. In this chapter, we draw on legislative and regulatory texts, archival material, and interviews with relevant political actors to compare the policymaking influence of each of these coalitions, and we argue that the composition of the two coalitions is the key to understanding why one was more successful than the other. At the same time, we point out the justice-oriented coalition's growing power, as market-oriented SMOs seek to preserve their legitimacy.



Basseches, J.A., Rubinstein, K. and Kulaga, S.M. (2021), "Coalitions that Clash: California's Climate Leadership and the Perpetuation of Environmental Inequality", Pettinicchio, D. (Ed.) The Politics of Inequality (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 23-44.



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