Friday, July 21, 2017

The joy of meh over California climate law

I've been following but not talking about the runup to California's recently re-enacted climate legislation, authorizing more action from now to 2030 and removing the legal uncertainty that existed in the previous law over cap-and-trade.

I didn't know what to say about the bill supported by the mainstream environmental groups as part of a deal with industry and Western States Petroleum Association, versus alternatives supported by harder-line enviros. People who knew more than me about what was going on seemed torn (although they eventually lined up one way or another) while people who knew less were very confident.

The good thing about it is that the choice in California was between striking a compromise that still ended up as probably the strongest legislation of any state, versus taking a risk on something stronger that might fall apart. That's not the choice on tap in most other states.

Everyone has biases. The mainstream environmental bias is to make deals, and the hardline bias is to reject deals. I'm pretty amazed that WSPA took the deal - it's going to be hard for them to argue in other blue states in the West that they should accept nothing after having accepted this. That to me is an important gain.

Regardless, this is what we've got, and now executing on it is the important thing.

UPDATE:  Steve makes a good point in comments - prior law requires 40% reductions in GHGs by 2040, so WSPA had little leverage as opposed to facing potentially-crippling regulation. I had known about that, but stupidly overlooked it when thinking about tradeoff choices for this post. Still, California has backed off on regulatory approaches in the past (e.g. Zero-Emission Vehicles), and the precedent for other states still applies.

My other beef about this is I haven't seen reported what the new cap and trade price floor and ceilings are going to be, other than they're low. I even quickly skimmed the law's text and couldn't figure it out.


Steve Bloom said...

That wasn't the choice at all. ARB is unquestionably empowered to do the whole thing by regulation. The two-thirds vote authorization was needed to do it with a pricing mechanism, that being beloved of politicians because pork. Recall that most enviros kept saying "cap, no trade," and of course that's also why WSPA had to deal. I'm actually a little shocked that someone in your position wasn't clear on this.

Entirely lost in all of this was any discussion about what California's goals (actually set last year by SB32 as 40% below 1990 levels by 2030) mean in the global context. Noting the 2C carbon budget calculations say we need to be at global net-zero GHG emissions by 2045 to have a two-thirds chance of staying under it (way too optimistic because carbon feedbacks, but that's another story), the answer may be not much at all. Sad.

Brian said...

Good point Steve, I'll update.

Tom Gray said...

"People who knew more than me about what was going on seemed torn (although they eventually lined up one way or another) while people who knew less were very confident."

Sounds like Yeats: "The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity."

Marlowe Johnson said...

Folks in Ontario are mighty grateful for the 100 million+ t/CO2e overallocation in permits btw. It used to be that Russian Hot Air was a thing. Now it's been claimed by Amurika.

The curious bunnies out there might want to ask why it is that prices aren't projected to rise above the floor until some point in the very distant fewtcher when all the current crop of pols will be busy growing low carbon carrots on no till soil...