Global Warming

Effort to reauthorize cap-and-trade suffers a blow, but hope remains

Lawmakers seem eager to find another way to renew state's landmark climate program.

Smog over Los Angeles. Photo: Michael Muraz

With the Trump Administration’s announcement last week of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, California’s leadership on climate issues remains more important than ever. Over the last few legislative sessions, California lawmakers have set ambitious new goals for emissions reductions and renewable energy production, and they have committed to reduce the worst types of carbon pollution from the air we breathe.

But just because California remains at the forefront of climate legislative action doesn’t mean that the road ahead is going to be easy. We learned this again just last week as a critical climate bill failed to advance out of the State Assembly. Assembly Bill 378 would have reauthorized the state’s groundbreaking cap-and-trade program that is powering the state toward meeting its ambitious goals for global greenhouse gas reductions, and raising billions of dollars for climate programs. The bill also would have directed resources toward communities that have historically borne the burden of polluting industries. A similar bill, Assembly Bill 151, was linked to AB 378, and also failed.

The failure of AB 378 creates a big challenge for Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders who were eager to reauthorize the cap-and-trade program this year. While the program isn’t set to expire until 2020, it is considered important to reauthorize it now to ensure certainty around the carbon market.

Because AB 378 was the reauthorization bill most likely to succeed in the Legislature, Audubon California supported it enthusiastically. Audubon advocates sent more than 3,000 emails to lawmakers in support of the bill, and made hundreds of calls in key districts.

While the bill’s defeat was a setback, it certainly didn’t spell the end of the Legislature’s efforts to reauthorize cap-and-trade. Legislators are currently pursuing a number of options. One option that has been floated would be for the Governor’s office to try and work the extension into the budget process. Another bill, Senate Bill 775, which also includes a form of reauthorization, is still alive, but faces a number of challenges in the Legislature.

These are just a few of the options available to lawmakers. For instance, lawmakers could insert cap-and-trade legislation into a current bill and then get Assembly authorization in reconciliation. Regardless, Audubon California fully expects a form of cap-and-trade reauthorization to rise again before the end of this legislation session, and we’ll continue to advocate for it.

Despite the challenges of passing cap-and-trade legislation, other climate-related priorities are moving forward. In particular, the so-called Green Shield bills advanced last week. Senate Bill 49, the heart of this package, would cement environmental protections in state law if the federal government abandons them. This includes regulations around clean air and climate resilience.

California is currently the only state with a market-based incentive program to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Created through the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the program was implemented in 2012.

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