States Crack Down on CO2
Air Date: Week of January 26, 2007
Host Steve Curwood talks with Terry Tamminen, California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s environmental advisor, and Franz Litz, Director of Climate Policy in New York, about state programs to limit greenhouse gases. States representing more than a quarter of the country’s economic activity aren’t waiting for the word from Washington. Instead, they have already begun implementing mandatory cap-and-trade programs on carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. The sudden hubbub about climate change in Washington comes long after a number of states have already moved to cut carbon emissions. To understand why and how the states have taken the lead, we turn now to two people who have played key roles in that process.
Terry Tamminen is an energy advisor to California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state recently enacted mandatory limits on global warming gases. And Franz Litz is the Director of Climate Policy for the State of New York and a leader of what’s known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or Reggie. Hello to both of you.
CURWOOD: So, uh, let me start with you Terry Tamminen. For the first time in a State of the Union Address President Bush spoke the words global climate change. How substantive do you think those remarks were?
TAMMINEN: I don’t think they were substantive at all because he, he didn’t really go on to say what it is that he felt we should do about it or how responsible we are. I certainly give him credit for finally admitting that it’s happening. He said I believe his words were, “the serious challenge of global climate change.” But he didn’t then go on to say here’s what we’re going to do about it. He nibbled around the edges. I mean, the house is burning and he’s mowing the lawn.
LITZ: The President, while it is encouraging that he is recognizing the significance of the problem, it is in my view the most significant environmental challenge that we face. He has, as yet, shied away from the full package of policies that will be needed to really tackle the problem and it is very disappointing.
CURWOOD: While we’re looking for federal action a number of States in the Northeast have adopted what you call a regional greenhouse gas initiative. Mr. Litz, what exactly is it and how does it come into play in terms of climate change?
LITZ: The regional greenhouse gas initiative is a group of nine states now in the Northeast that are in the final stages of implementing a program that will cap emissions from the power sector. Now the power sector, as you may know, is one of the largest sectors in the Northeast. It’s about 30 percent of our emissions; it’s a larger part of the national emissions. The governors from the Northeast came together in the summer of 2003 and said, “We are going to look to tackle this problem. But we’re going to do it in a way that’s flexible and market based. So what we’ll do is what is called a cap and trade approach. You cap the emissions from the power plants in the region. You then say that each plant has an obligation to hold permits that equal the total of their emissions. And those permits are tradable among all of the sources and that’s where the trade part of cap and trade comes in.
CURWOOD: You have this economy-wide, that’s the plan right Terry Tamminen?
TAMMINEN: Yes it is. We ah, we certainly agree with what Franz just said but uh here in California our oil and gas refining business, our oil and gas exploration, our land fills and the cement industry are four other very large industries that emit significant amounts of CO2. And so we wanted this to be economy-wide. Those first five are perhaps the most important. But our trading program will be economy-wide.
CURWOOD: How much of a true solution is this state focused approach? Franz?
LITZ: Just to give you a sense of what this means in terms of numbers, if you take the Reggie states, plus California, we represent more than a quarter of the US population. If you added up our economies and treated us as a country we would be the third largest world economy. And so if it makes sense for Germany to do something, the UK to do something, it certainly makes sense for these states to move ahead.
CURWOOD: Now what if, let’s say, I was in a business um, that uses a lot of energy such as making cement or smelting aluminum and um, my business right now is in one of these Northeastern states or California. What’s to prevent me from moving say to a state that doesn’t have this or maybe over the border to Mexico ah, or Canada to get away from these rules?
LITZ: Well, here in California one of the answers to that question is Schwarzenegger has made it a high priority to work with other states through the Western Governor’s Association, Board of Governor’s Association, um, and actually by sending me out; I just came back from Vancouver talking to British Columbia Premier Campbell, and talking to other leaders about doing the same things in their states and in the region so that this, this doesn’t happen. So, hopefully we’re signaling business that look to other states may not have the same rules and regulations and laws as California just yet but it’s coming. And so there’s no benefit to you to picking up and moving across a border.
CURWOOD: States are moving forward on this. Why, in your view, is the federal government so reluctant to move in this area? You have the White House and you have the Congress which have really not acted.
LITZ: States have long been laboratories of democracy in the area of environmental protection it was the states after all, that had the first agencies that looked after environmental protection well before the EPA on the federal level was established. And states and cities reached out to regulate the pollution that was affecting them on the ground. So what you’re seeing despite the fact that climate change is very much a global problem, you’re seeing that same dynamic play out here and it will eventually lead to congressional action. I’m convinced of that.
TAMMINEN: And I would just add to that. I think that one reason we’re not seeing better federal action is that there was a divide up until this recent change of Congress, last November, where it just was not an issue on the radar screen. And I think part of that is the fossil fuel industry has spent 186 million dollars in Congressional and Presidential campaign contributions. And for that they’ve gotten back 1000 dollars for every single dollar they’ve invested in campaign contributions in terms of subsidies or direct tax breaks or other benefits. Ah. and that corrupts the system. So I think that we in the states are the ones living with the impacts of this.
We’re already seeing a shrinking of the snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas that provides two thirds of the developed water to our state. We’re seeing coastal erosion. We’re seeing changes in the growing season in our important agricultural regions. We’re seeing greater levels of heat death and that sort of thing. So we see these impacts and I think it’s important for states to take action.
CURWOOD: Terry Tamminen is an energy advisor to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Franz Litz is the Director of Climate Policy for the State of New York. Gentlemen, thanks very much.
TAMMINEN: Thank you.
LITZ: My pleasure.
California Climate Action Registry
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative website
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