Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento’s climate on climate changeEditorial, August 8, 2016 4:46pm
Ten years after California passed AB32, our landmark law to fight climate change, the Legislature is being pushed to pass its successor. SB32, envisioned as the logical next step in California’s push, would set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030.
It should have been an easy ask.
AB32 hasn’t been perfect, but it’s helped to lower California’s emissions without negatively impacting its economy. In fact, the economy has grown — gross domestic product in 2015 was up 12.4 percent over 2006 — while petroleum and electricity consumption have both declined.
The state’s climate change battle is also highly popular with voters. In last month’s Public Policy Institute of California poll, 69 percent of Californians supported extending our climate change policies and aiming for the 2030 target.
But instead of responding with the pioneering spirit of their predecessors in the Legislature, current legislators are stuck in neutral.
SB32, authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County), was stalled in the Assembly last year, thanks to the lobbying efforts of the oil industry. Pavley revived the bill this year, but its prospects look increasingly dire.
There are just a few weeks left in the legislative session, and SB32 is again at risk in the state Assembly. Pavley has negotiated plenty of compromises on the bill (including dropping a longer-term 2050 goal), but it’s still not enough.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is furiously trying to work out a deal behind the scenes.
The governor’s sense of urgency is understandable — there are lots of threats to California’s climate change fight right now, including a California Chamber of Commerce lawsuit that’s put the entire cap-and-trade auction program, the centerpiece of AB32, in jeopardy.
But the governor’s office needs to be careful to play the long game here. Doing otherwise could jeopardize the program in less expected, but no less crucial, ways.
Nancy McFadden, Brown’s executive secretary, raised the prospect of a ballot initiative if the Legislature doesn’t move on the governor’s climate change goals. In an Aug. 4 Twitter statement, McFadden said, “The governor will continue working with the Legislature to get this done this year, next year, or on the ballot in 2018.” That same day, Brown’s office filed papers with California’s secretary of state to launch an initiative drive for an as-yet undetailed “Californians for a Clean Environment” measure.
The governor’s temptation to run around an obstinate state Legislature and go directly to the voters is understandable, but it must be avoided.
Achieving climate change goals is a lengthy process with endless moving parts. The legislative process allows the state to adapt as conditions change; ballot measures etch regulations in stone.
With the cap-and-trade auction system in limbo, an inflexible ballot measure could be an especially dangerous solution to a complex problem. State lawmakers need to create certainty by passing SB32 now.