Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why California is Greener Than Thou

In an interview with the Financial Times, Governor Schwarzenegger accused former Governor Sarah Palin on accomplishing little in the way of climate change policy, and instead used the issue as a launching pad for her career. In response, Palin posted the following message to her Facebook account Tuesday night:

Perhaps [Governor Schwarzenegger] will recall that I live in our nation's only Arctic state and that I was among the first governors to create a sub-cabinet to deal specifically with climate change. While I and all Alaskans witness the impacts of changes in weather patterns firsthand, I have repeatedly said that we can't primarily blame man's activities for those changes. And while I did look for practical responses to those changes, what I didn't do was hamstring Alaska's job creators with burdensome regulations so that I could act "greener than thou" when talking to reporters.

A climate change sub-cabinet! How’s that for maverick policymaking?

Before Palin points to California, calling our state, “greener than thou for reporters sake,” let’s see how the Palin administration stacks up to the accomplishments of Governor Schwarzenegger in the area of climate change action:

Statewide Greenhouse Gas Cap:

California: Completed; further work in progress. In 2007, the Governors of five western states established the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, committing to establish an overall regional goal to reduce GHG emissions within 6 months and to design a regional market-based multi-sector mechanism within 18 months to achieve the regional goal.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Carbon Offset Requirements:

California: Completed; further work in progress. On May 23, 2007, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved regulations that limit the purchase of electricity from power plants that fail to meet strict GHG emissions standards. These regulations, as part of SB 1368, which became law on August 31, 2006, prohibit the state's publicly owned utilities from entering into long-term financial commitments with plants that exceed 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Greenhouse Gas Auto Standards:

California: In progress. The proposed auto standard, which the California Air Resources Board approved on September 24, 2004, calls for a reduction of GHG emissions from new vehicles of 22% by 2012 and of 30% by 2016. Nineteen other states have either adopted or pledged to implement California's proposed tailpipe emissions rule.

Alaska: No activity identified.

Climate Change Action Plan:

California: Completed; further work in progress. On April 3, 2006, the California Climate Action Team (at the direction of Governor Schwarzenegger) completed the Climate Change Action Plan, establishing the first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases.

Alaska: In progress. On September 14, 2007, Governor Sarah Palin signed Administrative Order No. 238, officially forming the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet.

So Palin is right. We are greener than thou.

We’re greener than just about everyone, in fact. Throughout his terms as Governor, Schwarzenegger has succeeded in bringing world leaders to the table at all levels of government to in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our natural resources, and build green economies. Under the Schwarzenegger administration, California signed an agreement with Prime Minister Tony Blair to collaborate, as an independent entity, with the UK and other world leaders on climate change initiatives. California also participated in the launch of China’s first greenhouse gas emissions registry earlier this year.

As a lame duck Governor attending one of the most important climate summits of this decade, Schwarzenegger’s got nothing to lose by calling out former-governors-gone-rogue in their failures on this issue. With a 27% approval rating back home, Copenhagen is just about the only place in the world where Schwarzenegger can bask in the riches of political capital.

As for her accusations, the best Palin can do in the way of climate change is turn her finger around.

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