Thursday, June 02, 2005

Schwarzenegger in Front on Climate Change

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday announced an ambitious if non-binding plan to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger's Environmental Action Plan would decrease emissions from the state to below 2000 levels by 2010; 1990 levels by 2020; to 80% less than 1990 levels by 2050.

This proposal, the LA Times notes, "is only about half as aggressive as the Kyoto targets in the short run. But its long-term goals are far more ambitious than anything proposed in the United States. Indeed, some climate experts said that if California reduced its emissions by the targets Schwarzenegger set, it would cut more greenhouse gases than Japan, France or the United Kingdom." The Kyoto Protocols (which the US has not signed onto, of course) would decrease emissions to 1990 levels.

In his speech announcing the executive order, delivered before "hundreds of business and environmental leaders at the United Nations World Environment Day conference in San Francisco," Schwarzenegger said "As of today, California is going to be the leader in the fight against global warming. say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat, and the time for action is now" [emphasis added].

Just how the plan released Wednesday will be implemented remains rather unclear: Schwarzenegger "pledged to speed up an existing California requirement that private utilities provide 20% of their power from renewable energy, moving the deadline from 2017 to 2010. He also pledged to make good on his goal of dramatically increasing the number of homes in the state with solar power panels. And he promised to lobby business leaders throughout the state to voluntarily reduce emissions," notes the LA Times. An advisor to the governor told the Times after the speech that "the governor's early targets could be met by simply ramping up existing programs and adopting proposals the governor has already made."

But critics say there's no enforcement mechanism and that the plan doesn't go far enough: Democrats in the legislature pushed a stricter plan through an Assembly committee on Tuesday and more are reportedly in the works.

A GM spokesman is quoted in the LA Times as expressing concern that the US seems to be adopting state regulations of varying degrees to deal with climate change, adding "We think it's important to address this issue nationally, but understand California's position that the federal government is not doing enough."

The Marin Independent Journal quotes Jason Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists saying of Schwarzenegger's proposal "The targets are an excellent starting point, and now the heavy lifting of enacting policies to meet them must begin." In the San Jose Mercury News, Environmental Defense's Thomas Graff says "Governor Schwarzenegger's speech today could be this generation's 'we will put a man on the moon' commitment that inspires the world's top economies to take the lead in developing innovative solutions to our most serious environmental challenge - global climate change."

More coverage of the Schwarzenegger plan from the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Oakland Tribune.

In entering the (bipartisan) fight against global climate change, Schwarzenegger joins other elected leaders from around the country, including the mayors of 156 cities in 37 states representing some 32 million people who have joined Seattle mayor Greg Nickels in pledging to bring their cities into compliance with Kyoto by 2012. I covered this initiative here.

Schwarzenegger will of course need to follow his strong words with strong actions in order for this to be any more than empty rhetoric. I hope very much that he will do so, and move this initiative forward with the same energy level he had when he announced it.


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