Brown orders new emissions cuts

by James Poulos | April 29, 2015 4:19 pm

MIAMI - JULY 11:  Exhaust flows out of the tailpipe of a vehicle at , "Mufflers 4 Less", July 11, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Florida Governor Charlie Crist plans on adopting California's tough car-pollution standards for reducing greenhouse gases under executive orders he plans to sign Friday in Miami.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)[1]

At a high-powered leadership gathering in Los Angeles, Gov. Jerry Brown detailed plans, laid out in a new executive order, aimed at slashing California’s carbon emissions to new lows.

The 18th annual Milken Institute Global Conference gave Brown an intellectual backdrop for the news of an intended[2] 40 percent emissions cut from 1990 levels by 2030.

“Under existing state law,” reported[3] the New York Times, “emissions are supposed to be cut 80 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2050, and Mr. Brown said this tough new interim target was essential to helping the state make investment and regulatory decisions that would assure that goal was reached.”

Channelling the cosmopolitan spiritualism that earned him his reputation when first elected governor, Brown reiterated his view that the impact of emissions amounted to a planetary crisis. According to the Times, he asked: “Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethno-centric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”

Ratcheting up regulations

Brown’s new scheme far exceeded the level of emissions restrictions adopted by California’s neighbors — or those of the United States. As the Washington Post reported[4], the Golden State’s regulatory framework was now set to become the strictest in North America.

“The order will incorporate planning for the impacts of climate change into California’s long-term infrastructure and financial planning,” noted the Post. “It also orders state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions to limit those emissions to hit the new targets.”

Brown’s confidence in hitting the new marks appeared to be driven by the state’s position relative to benchmarks set by his predecessor in office. As the Associated Press noted[5], “California already has been moving toward an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 under a 2005 executive order by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.” On the way to that number, the Schwarzenegger benchmarks mandated a drop to 1990 emissions levels by 2020. State officials told[6] the Times California “may even exceed” that measure.

Brown pegged California’s planned reductions to levels set this October by policymakers in the European Union, according[7] to the San Francisco Chronicle; by setting a course for an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels at the century’s halfway mark, Brown said in a statement, California would be put “in line with the scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius — the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels.”

Executive force

Brown’s actions on emissions continued the more proactive style of governance he has adopted of late. Previously this week, Brown announced[8] plans for tough new fines punishing excessive water use. Although he vowed only to hit “the worst offenders” with the highest penalties, the Los Angeles Times reported[9], Brown proposed raising the upper limit from $500 per day to $10,000.

“The governor’s proposal, which must be negotiated with lawmakers, would also empower cities and counties to issue fines. Local governments would be able to enlist staff members to dish out warnings and citations, expanding the ranks of officials prodding Californians to meet conservation targets.”

Along with the dramatic new emissions goals, Brown’s increasingly unforgiving approach to water issues signaled a new theme for his final term in office as governor. Despite showing an almost zen patience in prior years for the workings of California’s unwieldy bureaucracy — a calming influence sometimes criticized within his own party for lacking urgency — Brown has now shifted into a much more unilateral mode. Whether the severity of the state’s drought is the cause, or some broader set of factors, Brown’s more muscular use of his executive power appears set to continue well into the years ahead.

  1. [Image]:
  2. intended:
  3. reported:
  4. reported:
  5. noted:
  6. told:
  7. according:
  8. announced:
  9. reported:

Source URL: