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California Seeks To Shape International Climate Policies

California Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his 2017-2018 state budget plan he released at a news conference in Sacramento, California, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his 2017-2018 state budget plan he released at a news conference in Sacramento, California, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
California Seeks To Shape International Climate Policies
California Seeks To Shape International Climate Policies GUEST: Coral Davenport, energy and environment reporter, The New York Times

California has led the nation for years with climate action policies. Now, it may try to lead the world. As President Trump administration is to reverse pollution policies, California is moving forward -- board with agreement on carbon reducing cap and trade policies. If they take further steps back, it is not clear how far California can take climate action on its own. Join me by Skype is Coral Davenport, the co-author of the article, fighting Trump on the climate and it becomes a global force. Welcome to the program. It is great to be with you. You report that California has become America's quote de facto negotiator with the world on the environment. What has the state been up to ? Jerry Brown has been traveling the world to take part in conversations about implementing a global climate change agreement like the Accord. He is also striking his own deals. As we see Washington and the Donald Trump administration would draw from domestic policies and talk about the pair still, California already has a strong climate change policy. And they are negotiating -- they are already coordinating a cap and trade market with two providences in Canada. There is talk about extending that to Mexico. Governor Brown has sent delegations to China to talk about helping China set up a new trade that could also possibly be set up and linked to the California market. This is happening as Washington and the federal government are pulling back from initiatives like this. It is not as if California is a single state can sign a treaty. How are these negotiations being formalized? How are they completing the deals ? They cannot sign a treaty but it can sign -- it has signed a business agreement. For example, with Ontario to link the cap and trade market. That is not an international treaty but it is a financial market that is between California, the province of cut back and the province of Ontario. There is talk about possibly doing that with some providences in China. There are six or seven providences that have cap and trade the same way that California has a state has cap and trade. We can link up with those. These are not political treaties. They are like trade agreements between states. You know, it is an interesting way to do this but California has the sixth largest economy and they do have a lot of leverage and strike any steals on its own. Moving forward on climate action, it is a stated goal of Governor Brown. He is trying to engage the world in these policies. Very much so. It is not just that he is trying to engage the world on behalf of California. He is getting aggressive about this as he sees President Trump talking about withdrawing. This is the next step in the process. President Trump talked on the campaign trail about withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement which commits every country to take action on climate change. The next talk to -- they take place in Germany. He plans to attend the talks. He said no matter whether anyone is there from Washington, he plans to represent the sixth largest economy and a state that has an aggressive domestic cap and trade program. He will represent the swath of Americans who want to keep the faith. That is causing tension with Washington. That is a tension that Governor Brown seems to relish. Yes. What has been the response from the Donald Trump administration to what California is doing ? They pointed out that California does have the right to have its own state policies. But at the same time, you know, they are prepared to push back. Another significant policy is California has a waiver from the federal government to have higher fuel economy standards than the rest of the country. That is a major initiative. During the Obama administration, those standards were spread across the country. That was a deal that was brokered by a former governor. The Trump administration is talking about rolling those back. And he is also revoking California's ability to have higher standards than the rest of the country. No question that Governor Brown sees that as a direct affront. He is looking at suing back and countersuing. And really ramping up a big legal fight with Washington if that happens. California prepared itself for legal battle with Washington. I am wondering, how much strategy is based on litigation, trying to stop the efforts of the Trump administration that they deem unacceptable to California. Are there efforts to persuade this administration to embrace environmental laws? It is interesting because Governor Brown has talked about how there are things you would like from this administration, particularly they are talking about pushing a big infrastructure package and California would like to be a beneficiary of that. There is funding for updating highways. The governor is trying to find ways to negotiate but he is also not afraid at all to throw down and be aggressive in preparing major lawsuits against the government. California has already been part of a lawsuit against the Trump administration in the efforts to roll back President Obama's broader climate regulations. Politically, Governor Brown does not have a problem calling out the president when he has mocked or denied climate change. The governor has thrown down and called him out on that. He does not seem to back away from the fight. I am speaking with Coral Davenport. Thank you . Thank you. It was good to be with you.

California has led the nation for years in climate action policies. Now, it may be trying to lead the world.

As President Donald Trump's administration moves to reverse U.S. pollution policies, such as the Clean Power Plan, California is moving forward with international agreements on to reduce carbon emissions. Governor Jerry Brown is heading to China next month to meet with climate leaders there as China looks to emulate California's cap-and-trade system.

"California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment," The New York Times environment reporter Coral Davenport wrote. "The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord. In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states — and to nations — on how to fight climate change."


But Trump officials are ready to combat California's plans, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt criticizing Brown as an aggressor seeking to impose California energy rules on the rest of the country.

Davenport joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on how California is trying to influence international climate agreements.