July 16, 2017
After almost five years on opposite sides of a cap-and-trade lawsuit, the California Chamber of Commerce and Environmental Defense Fund don’t necessarily agree on much, but we do agree that there is a critical step that the state of California should take to secure the future environmental and economic well-being of the state — and ultimately the world.
Californians care about the environment and the air they breathe. That means acting on the climate and improving air quality is imperative. We also know we can maintain a strong economy with well-paid, middle-class jobs. The cap-and-trade program balances both of these priorities and ensures that we meet our environmental goals in the most cost-effective way.
The Golden State will generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and we have the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in North America. At the same time, California is producing more wealth than any other state in the union. We have the sixth-largest economy in the world and added more jobs — 2.5 million — than any other state since the economic recovery started.
But our continued environmental and economic success is not guaranteed. Lawmakers in Sacramento are deciding right now whether to extend cap and trade, one of the state’s key programs to fight climate change, and Californians need their representatives to act. This program has a proven track record of being the least expensive approach to cutting carbon emissions — three to five times cheaper than the alternatives.
Not only is the program helping the state to cut carbon pollution, it’s also injecting billions of dollars into new and innovative clean energy and green technology projects that create good-paying jobs — a major economic stimulus to communities across the state.
In a nutshell, cap and trade sets a limit on pollutants that drive climate change. Economic motivation and interest in environmental protection converge, and a state can have ambitious climate targets and a thriving economy when, over time, companies find it cheaper to emit less greenhouse gases than to buy more carbon allowances. The legislation being considered by lawmakers extends this successful program by 10 years to ensure that California continues to meet its tough emissions reduction goals in the most cost-effective way.
The legislation takes a balanced approach to the use of high-integrity carbon offsets that provide cost savings for California businesses and create environmental benefits for California. Further, the bill retains local air district responsibility and authority to improve local air quality, while maintaining the state’s comprehensive, statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
If this legislation becomes law, residents will continue to save on their electricity bills through the state’s low-income solar program. They’ll keep scrapping old cars for zero-emission vehicles and move into housing connected to transportation hubs. Companies pioneering water, energy and fuel efficiency will expand and hire. Local transit agencies will continue expanding services and deploying new locomotives and electric buses. Thanks to cap and trade, these are real investments producing real results in our neighborhoods.
California law requires the reduction of greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Importantly, the cap-and-trade program is the most cost-effective way for the state to achieve these world-leading climate goals. Without cap and trade, regulators will be forced to enact mandates that will be significantly more expensive for Californians. The alternatives to this bill cost tens of billions of dollars more — and there’s no guarantee that they will hit the target.
Both our economic strength and our ability to fight climate change depend on maintaining environmental regulations that are both tough and smart for years to come. In order to secure the future, we must continue strong, bold leadership from everyone — government, environmental, business and community leaders — and we can’t slow down.
Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. is the governor of California. Allan Zaremberg is president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund.