Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 9 News List

At forefront of climate fight, California plans an offensive

The state gears up for a fight against Trump, who packed his Cabinet with climate change deniers

By Adam Nagourney and Henry Fountain  /  NY Times news service, LOS ANGELES

Illustration: Yusha

Foreign governments concerned about climate change might soon be spending more time dealing with Sacramento, California, than Washington.

US president-elect Donald Trump has packed his Cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it.

However, California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach.

In a show of defiance, California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation.

That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” Brown said in an interview. “I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.”

The prospect of California’s elevated role on climate change is the latest sign of how this state, where Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Trump by more than 4 million votes, is preparing to resist the policies of the incoming White House. State and city officials have already vowed to fight any attempt by Washington to crack down on undocumented immigrants; Los Angeles officials last week set aside US$10 million to help fund the legal costs of residents facing deportation.

The environmental effort poses decided risks for the state. For one thing, Trump and Republicans have the power to undercut California’s climate policies. The Trump administration could reduce funds for the state’s vast research community — including two national laboratories — which has contributed a great deal to climate science and energy innovation, or effectively nullify state regulations on clean air emissions and automobile fuel standards.

“They could basically stop enforcement of the Clean Air Act and [carbon dioxide] emissions,” said Hal Harvey, president of Energy Innovation, a policy research group in San Francisco. “That would affect California because it would constrain markets. It would make them fight political and legal battles rather than scientific and technological ones.”

And some business leaders said that California’s embrace of environmental regulations — from emission reductions to new regulations imposing mandatory energy efficiency standards on computers and monitors — could put it at a disadvantage, all the more so as conservatives elsewhere move to roll back environmental regulations.

“If the other states pursue no-climate-change policies and we continue to go it on our own with our climate-change policies, then we would be at a competitive disadvantage for either relocating companies or growing companies here, particularly manufacturing factories,” California Business Roundtable president Rob Lapsley said.

When California enacted its climate reduction standards last year, it drew fierce criticism from state business leaders.

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