California Shows How States Can Lead on Climate Change

California, which has long been a pioneer in fighting climate change, renewed its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions last week by extending, to 2030, its cap-and-trade program, which effectively puts a price on emissions. It’s a bold, bipartisan commitment that invites similarly ambitious policies from other states, and it sends a strong signal to the world that millions of Americans regard with utmost seriousness a threat the Trump administration refuses to acknowledge, let alone reckon with.

The cap-and-trade program, which had been set to end in 2020, is the most important component of California’s plan to reduce planet-warming emissions by 40 percent (from 1990 levels) by 2030. The extension, along with a companion bill to reduce local air pollution, was passed by a two-thirds majority of the State Legislature, including eight crucial votes from Republicans. They defied a Republican president who has not only reneged on America’s global climate commitments, but has tried to undo every climate policy put into place by former President Barack Obama.

The hope among those who care about climate is that a combination of market forces, wider use of cleaner fuels and aggressive actions by businesses, states and cities can fill the gap left by Mr. Trump’s disappearance from the battlefield. There are many positive signs. Nearly 30 states require their utilities to seek at least some of their power from renewable sources; cities, prodded by former mayors like Michael Bloomberg, have increasingly been sharing ideas about emissions-cutting practices. More and more businesses are committing themselves to using renewable fuels.

And always, it seems, there is California, ready to take the lead until there are more responsible adults in the White House.

California’s cap-and-trade program requires power plants, natural gas utilities, fuel distributors and industries to buy permits to pollute, which decline in quantity over time. The idea is to put a price on emissions and, thus, discourage businesses and individuals from burning fossil fuels and encourage them to switch to cleaner sources of energy. The California program is linked with a cap-and-trade system in Quebec; Ontario will join next year. (A carbon tax is another way to put a price on greenhouse emissions; British Columbia, Finland and Ireland use this approach.)

Courtesy: The New York Times