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Regional pact caps emissions

Leaders of six states and two Canadian provinces agree to cut output of greenhouse gases to 15% below 2005 levels.

August 23, 2007|Margot Roosevelt | Times Staff Writer

Stepping in where the Bush administration has refused to tread, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and five other Western governors, joined by two Canadian provincial leaders, pledged Wednesday to enforce a tough regional cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Western Climate Initiative, the leaders agreed to slash emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-warming pollutants to 15% below 2005 levels in their states and provinces in the next 13 years. That is about the same percentage as California's commitment under last year's landmark global warming law. Overall, the region would cut emissions by 350-million metric tons over that time period.

To achieve their goal, the partners, including Democratic and Republican governors, committed to designing a carbon-trading system within a year. That approach, now in use in Europe, allows industries to trade pollution credits among themselves. Seven Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states are also designing a so-called cap-and-trade system, but that initiative will be limited to power plants.

"Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution," Schwarzenegger said in announcing the accord. "Our collective commitment will build a successful regional system to be linked with other efforts across the nation and eventually the world."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, August 24, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page Metro Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Greenhouse gases: An article in Thursday's California section about an agreement by six Western states and two Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions incorrectly stated that California's 2006 global warming law requires emissions reductions of 15% below 1990 levels. The law requires reductions to 1990 levels by 2020.

California officials took pointed aim at the Bush administration's refusal to enact a national program to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "The federal government needs to step up to the plate, but the states aren't waiting," said Linda Adams, California's secretary for Environmental Protection. "Ideally, we would have a cap at the federal level."

Although the Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, a global climate pact ratified by more than 140 countries, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that the charges of federal inaction are "false" and that Bush is "supportive of actions by the states and respects the role governors play."

The administration, she said, has supported billions of dollars in incentives for clean-burning technology and building retrofitting, a legislative proposal to cut the nation's traditional gas use by 20% over the next decade, as well as an effort to slow the growth of greenhouse emissions nationwide.

But in contrast to the administration's embrace of voluntary emissions targets, Schwarzenegger has traveled the West in recent months, cajoling other political leaders to join in a commitment to fixed cuts. The states that have signed up are Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Canadian provinces British Columbia and Manitoba have also joined the effort. Several states and provinces are official "observers," still considering whether to commit to the initiative's stringent goals. They include: Colorado; Kansas; Nevada; Wyoming; Ontario and Quebec, Canada; and Sonora, Mexico.

One goal of the regional pact is to prevent polluting industries from playing off states with stiff anti-pollution regulations against those without. In recent years, for instance, Nevada has advertised itself as a haven for businesses fleeing California.

"It is a big concern in California that companies might move to other states," Adams said. "This kind of regional program will help minimize that."

Environmental groups applauded the regional initiative. "It shows major momentum in the fight against global warming," said Theo Spencer of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The public has grown impatient with the Bush administration's denying and ducking. There's a wave of state action moving from coast to coast."

Under the initiative, the partner states have signed up with a national climate registry to measure how much greenhouse gas they emit. They are free to design how to cut their own emissions to meet the cap. To slash fossil-fuel consumption, which produces climate-warming carbon dioxide, states are mandating more energy-efficient buildings, increased use of solar and wind energy, less sprawl and more hybrid cars in government fleets.

But given that vehicle tailpipe emissions account for between one-quarter and one-third of states' CO2 emissions, it could be hard to meet the regional initiative's ambitious cap without also requiring auto companies to produce less-polluting cars. California passed a landmark law in 2002, which mandated a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in automobiles by 2020.

Eleven other states have signed on to California's approach, but with the auto industry fiercely opposed, the Bush administration has delayed granting a necessary federal waiver to allow the law to take effect.

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