Recent Efforts in California to Address Climate Change – New Twists on Established Strategies
As the world continues to confront the reality of a changing climate resulting from anthropogenic (human caused) releases of greenhouse gasses since the dawn of the industrial age, efforts to slow the increase of average global temperatures and combat the worst effects of that temperature rise have taken various tracks — from large-scale international agreements such as the Paris Accord (COP23) and the Kyoto Protocol, to legislative attempts such as cap-and-trade programs, to lawsuits based on international, federal, and state law, to technological innovations such as alternative energy and carbon sequestration.
In California — a state that’s consistently at the fore of global environmental initiatives — its cap-and-trade program has been now extended to 2030. California’s cap-and-trade program, which is proactive in nature, was scheduled to expire in 2020 until recently extended by the legislature. This critical renewal continues California’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Under the program, which is second in size only to the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, the state sets a limit on the amount of greenhouse gasses refineries, cement plants, and other industries are allowed to emit, issuing permits to specific companies capping their emissions. Those companies, which more easily can meet their targets, can then sell their excess capacity to other companies that have difficulty meeting their targets. By all impartial measurements, the program has been a success.
As the federal government under the current administration appears to be backing away from undertaking any meaningful efforts to address climate change, California’s program, along with the East Coast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, could serve as models for other such efforts nationwide.