September 11, 2006

International notes California's climate deal marks shift in policy for U.S.

Sierra Club of Canada is calling on the Canadian government to follow the example of California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and bring together political leaders from all parties to address the climate change issue without the trappings of partisan politics. On Wednesday, August 30, Schwarzenegger announced that the state's political leaders had agreed on legislation to combat climate change.

The bill, called AB 32, will be known as The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 when signed into law. It sets a statewide cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and will enable the state to move forward with developing a market-based system which will make California a world leader in the effort to reduce carbon emissions. The market and other mechanisms provided for in the legislation are expected to bring carbon dioxide emissions down 25% from 1990 levels by 2020.

The agreement represents a precedent-setting non-partisan initiative the state's Democrats and Republicans. John Bennett, a senior policy advisor on energy with Sierra Club of Canada, observed that California's leaders "have put their political differences aside so the 12th largest economy in the world can face the climate crisis united."

The group points out that climate change has become a heated partisan issue among Canada' Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat, and Green parties. With the forthcoming "Green Plan II," the government has an opportunity to transcend partisanship.

"We have a long history as a society of putting our political differences aside and working together when we are threatened. The climate crisis is the greatest threat we will ever face. To avoid a catastrophe, all sectors of our society must work together like never before. The responsibility for the first step to unify the country belongs to our political leaders," said Bennett.

The agreement in California could mean the beginning of a significant shift in U.S. climate policy. At least 14 other states have already implemented targets or programs, including the northeastern states which, along with the Atlantic provinces, have set an emission reduction target for the region.

Sierra Club of Canada notes that strong action and a political agreement in California is an indication of a grassroots movement across the U.S. and is a clear sign that ignoring the climate crisis won't be an option for the country's next president.

In California, the Climate Group and member businesses congratulated the governor and the state legislature on reaching the historic agreement. "The Climate Group commends California for this decisive action that will cap California's greenhouse gas emissions and establish a clear path for the use of market and other mechanisms," said Nancy Skinner, the group's U.S. director.

"The State of California just raised the bar on reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Jeff Swartz, president and CEO of The Timberland Company. "This Agreement provides a necessary platform for cross sector collaboration between the State, business and consumers, which is key to addressing the global warming crisis."

The Climate Group is a nonprofit organization working to communicate the business case for solutions to climate change and to mobilize corporate and government leaders to take decisive action to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. The group has offices in San Francisco, New York, London and Melbourne. More information is available on-line at www.theclimategroup.org.

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