Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Arnold crusading against climate change?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, yes him, announced a plan to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Last year, he bought into the idea that California, the 12th leading source of GHGs on the planet, should reduce emissions by 80% by the year 2050 to reduce threats posed by global warming. Now the state is giving the idea some teeth.

The teeth are weaker than many would have hope - the governor balked at setting mandatory emission caps until 2010 for fear of business leaving the state. The gov's claim is it gives time for businesses to prepare and the emissions trading system to be established. But it leaves open the possibility of stalling or that a future administration would simply ignore the program.

Regardless, many people in the climate policy world, resigned to a lack of federal action, believe regional initiatives like this and an agreement between 11 northeast and mid-altantic states can be an effective substitute. According to a study in Nature, the states enacting GHG reduction programs include 24-35% of the US population and represent 27-49% of US GDP. Two good consequences: i) the GHG reduction themselves can be significant, ii) it builds momentum for other states, and for national action.

For the Canadians out there -- this could be a lesson for the provinces that have complained as the new [and arguably the old] federal government basically gave up on the Kyoto Protocol. It is also a reminder that the federal government can't keep using the old "the US isn't taking action, and they are our largest trading partner" argument to justify waffling. But more on Canada and Kyoto later.

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