Given the less-than-triumphant conclusion of the Copenhagen Climate Talks and the dire economic conditions that are putting pressure on job creation and economic security, the struggle to curb greenhouse emissions is entering a new, even tougher period as climate change plunges in the public’s perception of importance. As federal action toward a climate change bill is dicey, recent actions in three western U.S. states point to trouble at the local levels as well.
Arizona Rejects Regional Cap & Trade
Earlier this month the State of Arizona backed out of the Western Climate Initiative to curb greenhouse gas emissions through a regional cap and trade system. The seven Western states and four Canadian provinces had planned to debut a regional cap and trade program in 2012. Governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order that, while not withdrawing Arizona from the Initiative, made clear that the state will not engage in any emission control plan or program that might raise costs for consumers or businesses.
Utah House Urges EPA To Forget It
On February 9, the Utah House passed a resolution calling on the EPA to “cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated.” HJR12 questions global warming and asks the federal government not to enact a cap and trade system or CO2 regulation. The resolution has no teeth unless it is passed by the Utah Senate, but it marks another rallying point for grandstanding lawmakers and the corporations who fund them.
California GOP & Business Seek To Suspend Landmark Emissions Law
Given the difficulty of getting action on global warming at the federal level, California, the world’s 8th largest economy, has stepped up. In 2006 California passed, and Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law, AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, an ambitious, comprehensive plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Now certain Republican lawmakers are circulating a ballot initiative that would suspend the law until the state unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. The rate currently stands at over 12 percent. The business-friendly Wall Street Journal endorsed the initiative as an antidote to California’s “feel-good law”, stating: “The politicians and green lobbies told voters this energy tax would create jobs—the same fairy tale many in Washington are repeating today.” And yet, as the Los Angeles Times notes, a recent study “determined that the number of green companies surged 45% from 1995 to 2008, and total jobs in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable fuels and clean tech grew 36%. During the same period general employment in the state expanded just 13%.”
Despite the green jobs, surge, the sponsors of the AB32 moratorium are calling the measure the California Jobs Initiative. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Governor opposes the effort, quoting spokesman Aaron McLear: “that it is deceptively written to protect big polluters and would keep us from staying No. 1 in the country in creating clean tech jobs.” The initiative’s sponsors have raised $600,000, or an estimated half of what is needed to gather the SS signatures by July necessary to get the initiative on the November ballot.
A coalition of businesses, the “AB32 Implementation Group,” whose mission is to see that “AB 32 emission reduction goals are achieved while maintaining the competitiveness of California businesses and protecting the interests of consumers and workers”, seems actually to be concerned with derailing the legislation in any way possible. A report from California Watch states that 22 of the state’s100 largest carbon emitters are member of the “Implementation Group” and that the group’s co-chair, Dorothy Rothrock, openly advocated suspending the law in April 2008–before the wave of economic troubles that were to engulf the state.
In good times or bad, there will always be excuses for inaction. As laws and regulations that had seemed far off or theoretical are coming into being, it is unfortunate that businesses and politicians continue the dance of grandstanding, special interests, and short-term thinking that seem to characterize political decisions these days. The consequences of failure to address greenhouse gas emissions will be grave: further delay on concerted action will aggravate the global situation and make effective measures even more difficult. Can the U.S.’s Western states take back the lead?
Photo: MistikaS via iStockphoto