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California Defends Climate Law, Remains National Bastion of Clean Energy Economy

61 percent of voters say no to referendum that would have suspended the state's landmark climate legislation

By Jennifer Pinkowski

Nov 3, 2010

Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who served two terms as the state’s governor in the 1970s, promoted a detailed during his campaign and has said he supports the Global Warming Solutions Act, which sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Broad public support combined with AB 32’s policy muscle “positions California very well to take a quantum leap forward for clean energy,” Crowfoot said. “We’ve made clean energy a mainstream issue here.”

What It Means for the Country: California as Bellweather

Mainstreaming clean energy in the national mind is what Seth Kaplan sees as the bigger potential for the Prop. 23 defeat. Kaplan is the clean energy and climate change program director for the , an environmental advisory group that helped 10 northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states develop the nearly two-year-old (RGGI), the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program.

After the collapse of climate legislation in Washington this summer, the action has skirted back to states and regions, said Kaplan. “It’s where we were a few years ago when we started with RGGI,” Kaplan said. “And that’s where we are again.”

Kaplan sees the influence of California, the world’s sixth biggest economy, in other states, especially in Massachusetts, which passed its own emissions-cutting Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008. He also noted that California has been a leader in energy efficiency, and that states like Illinois and Arkansas are now heavily promoting the energy-saving tactic. Through the Recovery Act, the federal government has also poured money into energy efficiency, .

“If there’s inaction in Congress, then other states will continue to march forward like we are, and eventually we’ll have a climate in the capital for climate legislation, because businesses won’t want 50 climate regulations,” said Maviglio. 

 “California has a history of innovating markets: the personal computer, the Internet, aerospace….We also have a history of incubating environmental policy: energy decoupling, appliance standards and more recently tailpipe emissions standards,” said Crowfoot.

That’s why what happens in California will not stay in California. When it comes to developing markets and influencing national policy, Crowfoot said, “California has been ahead of the curve.”

Air Resources Board: AB 32 Implementation Moving Forward

Despite the election season drama, AB 32 is on track to meet the deadlines set by a 2008 Scoping Plan, or roadmap, created by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the state agency charged with installing the new regulations.

Uncertainty about the potential impact of Prop. 23 did not slow down the process this year, said Stanley Young, an ARB spokesman. “We will continue implementing as we have all along, and have not delayed any measures,” Young told SolveClimate News.

Drafted in 2006 as a 13-page bill, the Global Warming Solutions Act now comprises some 70 policies that have been developed to meet the law's emissions goals. A number of “early action” measures have been put in place since 2008. Some 20 in all must be adopted by ARB by Dec. 31, with more to come in 2011. All measures must be in effect by Jan. 1, 2012, Young said.  

 Most immediately on the agenda is the agency’s proposal for a , which provides an overall limit on the emissions from sources responsible for 85 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Now in a public comment period that began Nov. 1, the cap-and-trade proposal must be approved by the ARB in some form by Dec. 31.

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