Environmental policy

The City of Bethlehem is currently drafting a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that will propose various strategies for reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). One challenge such plans confront is the difficulty of bringing members of vulnerable and marginalized groups into the planning process. Another challenge is devising strategies for reducing GHGs that benefit (and avoid burdening) those groups. In the City of Bethlehem, there is a general lack of political participation by low-income people of color who live within the City. Furthermore, when members of these groups do participate in political forums, their concerns are often ignored, leading to problems of distrust and inequity. Distrust of government officials (both elected and non-elected) is self-perpetuating: it can make members of vulnerable and marginalized groups cynical and less likely to participate in politics, which means that their interests are less likely to be understood, much less advanced as part of government policies. Thus, distrust produces inequity, and inequity leads to further distrust. Participatory budgeting has been advanced as one way to engage the public more effectively in local decision-making. It does this by giving ordinary citizens control over how some portion of municipal funds are spent. According to advocates of participatory budgeting, by putting decision-making power more directly in the hands of citizens, this approach to allocating municipal funding can both revitalize democracy and advance equity. For this portion of your final exam, please consider how this tool of participatory budgeting might be used to address the problems of participation and inequity that will arise in the planning and implementation of the Bethlehem CAP. Let us assume that some portion of the funding used to implement the Bethlehem CAP could be dedicated to projects designed and selected by residents from low-income communities of color in Bethlehem. Given what you learned in the course readings (by Swaner, and Pape and Learner) about the advantages and challenges of participatory budgeting, please write a 5-7 page essay in which you propose how to structure this kind of participatory budgeting component in the CAP so that it achieves the promised advantages of increased participation and equitable outcomes, while also avoiding or overcoming the challenges that can undermine the success of participatory budgeting efforts.


Please use sources (if applicable) from Klyzer & Souza or Sunstein for this discussion.

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