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California Climate Law Touted As Global Model Faces Key Test

California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, joined by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, urges members of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee to approve a pair of climate change bills, Thursday, July 13, 2017.
Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, joined by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, urges members of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee to approve a pair of climate change bills, Thursday, July 13, 2017.
California Lawmakers To Decide Fate Of Landmark Climate Law
California Lawmakers To Decide Fate Of Landmark Climate Law GUEST: Liam Dillon, California state politics and policy reporter, Los Angeles Times

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday July 17. Our top story on midday edition, the cap and trade program is the centerpiece of California's effort to fight climate change and it's a concept that Governor. Jerry Brown is eager to promote two other cities around the globe. He will not be able to do that unless California six with the program and a proposal to extend cap and trade to the year 2030 goes before the legislation today. Governor. Brown emphasized the importance he places on the bill while testifying in support of a be 398 last week before the Senate environmental quality committee. This is the most important vote of your life. I don't say that. Unless you think I'm lying and I was in the seminar for three years studying to be a good searcher of truth, this is the truth as I understand it. Joining me is Sacramento Liam Dillon. Welcome. Thank you. To define what we're talking about, cap and trade allows businesses to buy permits to release greenhouse gases while the For the overall amount of carbon emissions continues to go down. Some of those permits are given to industry for free as a way to keep their businesses in the state while others are treated or purchased. Cap and trade has been in effect in California since 2012. Do we know if it's been effective? It depends on who you ask. From a number of metrics the answer is yes. From a metric of whether we are meeting our environmental goals in California, we have a goal to reduce emissions by certain possession by 2020 and cap and trade is helping us to meet our goals. That's a good thing. Something the governor and others will say is that cap and trade is serving as a model for other states and other countries to use as a way to help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and also bring in revenue. That's going to all sorts of things like subsidies for electric cars or affordable housing production or Jerry Brown's train idea. By these metrics, yes. In order to meet our ambitious environmental goals set for 2030 we will need to do more. Under the original cap and trade free allowances were suppose to be phased out. A.B. 398 would phase those allowances out more slowly. What's the reason for that? It's dry to -- in order to do this which the governor wants is a bulletproof plant you need two thirds of the vote of the Legislature. While Democrats have the majority of legislature, there are some folks on the left to are not happy with continuing cap and trade. They prefer something more aggressive like a carbon tax. Some folks on the right may be interested in voting for some business day -- family plan. This is a way to court some supporters among the GOP and the legislature to get their support. If that were to happen that would send a interesting message to the rest of the country that you can have Republicans who are on board with a strict environmental plant in the country. As you say, some environmental groups say this plan gives away too many concessions to oil companies there is a provision that some say it would prevent local regulators from imposing additional limits on polluters. Here's Amy from the environmental coalition. Limiting the ability to take any measures needed in the coming decade to address carbon dioxide emissions from the drivers of climate change is policy and could have extremely harmful impacts. How strong is the opposition to this bill coming from environmentalists? It's pretty strong. They may be able to peel off some votes on the left in order to sink the plan or may not past the finish line because of that. I've talked to a number of capital watchers and people involved with this as the plane has been coming out, what the government wants to do is have something more that's just a plan for California. I think he's looking -- particularly since President Donald Trump got elected in this administration is soft on climate change issues then California is in the previous administration is, the governor is looking to create a model to be viable along the rest of the world. He has to show he has a plan to account for economic growth and also allows to serve environmental standards. Here on the left they think the situation is as dire as the governor is saying saying this is something that is a fast-moving train will will get massive wildfires and all these climate doomsday you need to back that up with a more restrictive plan. That's where the folks on the left are coming from. As you say the governor will need GOP votes to get that bulletproof two thirds majority, do you think he's been successful enticing enough Republicans onboard? When the maybe notable particularly those in the backcountry, there's a rural fire feet -- feet. It's part of the deal. That fire feet would be repealed. Instead the money for that would be backfilled with money from the trade options. The governor presented the two GOP lawmakers and committee as a tax-cut. Your cutting taxes for your constituents. That's been a carrot. Last week there was a provision that was authored by the leader of the GOP and the assembly Chad Mays, who has bargained for constitutional amendment that voters would decide on next year that would allow for the GOP to get the stronger hand when it comes to doling out that revenue. It gives them more leverage to be able to see where that cap and trade fund should be spent. There have been a few giveaways and the hope is to get a few GOP members. This vote is close. It's hours away. Do they have the votes? Does the governor have the votes on this? It's a great question. If we knew the answer would not to vote at all. I think we will see more arm-twisting through the day. We are expecting a late-night to see what happens. It's a big deal. It's not every day the governor goes out in public and says to everyone, this is the biggest vote you will taking your life. If you can pull it off that's a political win for him. If he can't he put it out on the line. I've been speaking with Liam Dillon. Thank you. Thank you.

California lawmakers are nearing a high-stakes decision that will decide the fate of a climate initiative that Gov. Jerry Brown holds up as a model to be replicated around the world to confront rising global temperatures.

The vote Monday on whether to give another decade of life to California's cap-and-trade program has global implications as the largest U.S. state moves to be a leader in reducing carbon emissions at a time when President Donald Trump is pulling back from fighting global warming.

Brown portrays the initiative as essential for the survival of civilization, but critics say it fails to aggressively combat pollution. It is one of his highest priorities as he nears the end of his fourth term, but he's struggled to line up support from two-thirds of lawmakers that he will need.

RELATED: Gov. Brown Makes Dire Plea To Save California Climate Law

The program expires in 2020 if lawmakers don't renew it. The Assembly needs 54 votes to pass the bill, but Democrats will have only 53 members present Monday due to one lawmaker's longstanding absence and a fresh vacancy from another who went to Congress.

That makes Republican support essential.

But the governor's plan has mobilized intense opposition from conservatives who say it will raise costs in an already expensive state as well as from liberals who say it's too timid for progressive California.

Brown sounded an apocalyptic tone in a rare personal appeal before a Senate committee last week, telling lawmakers that failing to pass the extension would lead to fires, disease and mass migration, not to mention higher costs for food and gasoline.

The idea is supported by national environmental groups and business interests, which echo Brown's refrain that cap and trade is the most affordable way for California to meet its ambitious climate goals.

Cap and trade puts a limit on carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. Some permits, known as allowances, are given away while others are auctioned, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the state.

Lawmakers are considering a two-measure package, one to renew cap and trade through 2030 and another aimed at improving local air quality.

Republicans also introduced a plan to require a one-time supermajority vote to spend revenue from cap-and-trade pollution permits collected after 2023, a move that could give the party more of a voice in the future.

State law requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 — among the most aggressive mandates for carbon reduction in the world.

Without cap and trade, state regulators will be forced to enact restrictive mandates on polluters that would be burdensome for businesses and significantly more expensive for consumers, Brown said.

The legislation shows the divisions between environmentalists who work nationally, focusing on reducing global carbon emissions and creating a policy that can be replicated elsewhere, and environmental justice advocates who work locally. The latter group says cap and trade allows polluters to keep fouling the air around major sources of pollution like refineries.

Environmental justice advocates object to concessions Brown made to the oil industry and other polluters in a bid to win support from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Some lawmakers have questioned why Brown so urgently wants to extend a program that doesn't expire for another 2½ years. Brown says extending it now would give businesses the certainty they need to plan.

A quick extension would also bolster Brown's global advocacy for climate action. He made a high-profile trip to China last month, plans to attend a climate summit in Germany in November and will host a climate conference next year in San Francisco.