A new survey conducted by The Field Poll reveals that seventy percent of Californian citizens believe that global warming is very important to them personally. This is significantly higher than 52% of Americans who reported this in a national poll earlier in 2007.
Public concern over global warming in California is high because of recent regional changes in air quality and water availability. A majority believes that the problem requires “immediate” (43%) or “some action” (32%). The report notes that, “Despite these apprehensions, greater than eight in ten (85%) agree that the state can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and, at the same time, expand jobs and economic prosperity. In addition, 90% agree that California can be a leader in new technologies to improve efficiency and reduce global warming, with 66% agreeing strongly.”
Californians also support state government tax credits to businesses that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (81%) and a cap-and-trade system for businesses (65%).
This is huge stamp of approval for the environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration. Last year, through an executive order, the State of California began formulating the world’s most progressive mandatory cap-and-trade system for major industries in the region. The plan aims to cut state-wide carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
In order to meet this goal, the State of California is creating sector-specific strategies. The U.S. Government, however, is proving to be somewhat of an obstacle in this regard. For example, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, the State of California intends to implement the Pavley Bill, which mandates a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle emissions by 2016, starting with model year 2009. To put this policy into action, the state needs a waiver from the EPA and it seems as if the EPA has been stalling on granting permission. This led the Governor to file a lawsuit last week.
“California is ready to implement the nation’s cleanest standards for vehicle emissions, but we cannot do that until the federal government grants a waiver allowing us to enforce those standards,” Governor Schwarzenegger said.
How should industry professionals interpret these events? Carbon policy formulation is in a current state of flux. Citizens are clamoring for the business world to act, and a growing number of state governments are creating separate policies to provide incentives for businesses to move in this direction. Meanwhile, the federal government has yet to catch up. In some cases, the federal government is stalling efforts to address climate change, as the above example demonstrates. The U.S. Presidential administration still remains relatively mute on the topic. On the other hand, the U.S. Congress has seven different cap-and-trade federal policies presently on the floor. If one were to base their decisions to reduce carbon emissions based on a present or proposed government mandate to do so, it would be very tricky to do so at this moment in time.
For those who monitor carbon policy and market development in the U.S., the consensus appears to be that it is only a matter of time before a standardized federal policy is enacted. The “hang-ups” that we see occurring between state and federal jurisdiction will be straightened out over time, hopefully in the near future, as carbon policy understanding grows amongst our legislators. In the interim, industry professionals would do well to begin implementing carbon reduction strategies now in order to limit company liabilities based on federal policies in the future.