California To Pass Emissions Caps: A "Bottom-Up Approach to Global Warming"


Splitting with the Bush administration and setting a new standard in the country's approach to global warming, California's legislature is about to pass the broadest carbon dioxide emissions caps in the country. The Democratic-sponsored Global Warming Solutions Act (read the full text here), which Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger (further burnishing his green bono fides), has pledged to sign, aims to "terminate" emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020. With enforcement starting in 2012, it will require the state’s major industries to clean up their act, partly by setting up a cap-and-trade program that will allow businesses to buy, sell and trade emission credits with other companies. Though oil companies and other businesses opposed the bill, citing the high costs of compliance, Silicon Valley corporations issued their support. Surprisingly, so did the giant utility Pacific Gas & Electric, which praised the plan's "market-based mechanisms." The Bush administration wasn't so sanguine, warning about "any program that moves jobs and increases emissions in other states or other countries." Okay, but if such caps inspire other states--and the national government--to follow suit, there will be nowhere for the greenhouse gas emissions to go but down.

More coverage below the fold...From today's Washington Post:

"It really does point out the country needs to solve this problem in a uniform way," said William Reilly, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush and now co-chairs the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy. "It will rebound in Washington. The country's largest state is setting a new standard for the climate issue."

Bush's top environmental adviser, James L. Connaughton, issued a statement today saying while the administration welcomes "effective state action to complement over 60 regulatory, incentive, and voluntary federal programs working to achieve the president's goal of reducing national greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012," it remains concerned about "any program that moves jobs and increases emissions in other states or other countries -- an open question for California's proposed legislation."

California lawmakers, along with environmental advocates and some business leaders, said they pushed the measure both to address what they see as a threat to their state's survival as well as to influence national energy policy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has already pledged to sign the bill, which passed the state Senate Thursday night on a 32-to-23 vote. It was scheduled for a vote in the state Assembly today.

"I really believe the effort to curb global warming is a bottom-up effort in this country," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D), who co-authored the bill. "For us, this is not just about California. This is about making a push from the bottom up to get the Congress to take action."

Moreover, California corporate leaders have not given up the fight against legislation they say could cripple industry. Jack Stewart, the president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, said companies have already taken steps to improve their energy efficiency, and new government mandates would increase the cost of doing business.

"The economic graveyards of California are littered with the jobs that are the unintended consequences of good intentions by legislators and governors," said Stewart, adding manufacturers and utilities have not ruled out legal action challenging the bill.

Still, politicians across the country are pressing ahead with new rules aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Two weeks ago, seven Northeastern states approved a mandatory limit on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants that would stabilize emissions in 2009 and reduce them by 10 percent ten years later. And just this week Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) established a climate change advisory panel composed of both environmental activists and utilities executives to review the science on climate change and propose ways the state can curb its effects.

Go California! We'll surely be hearing much more about this, and its offspring, in the days and years to come.

: : NYT; : : Reuters; Press Release from the : : Office of the Governor; and more California coverage here, here, here and here.