SACRAMENTO — California senators passed Governor Jerry Brown’s initiative to curb greenhouse gases Monday night, sending the measure to the state Assembly.
A final vote on whether to extend for another decade California’s cap-and-trade program has global implications as the largest US state moves to be a leader in reducing carbon emissions and President Trump pulls back from fighting global warming.
Brown portrays the plan as essential for the survival of civilization, but critics say it fails to aggressively combat pollution. It is one of his highest priorities as he nears the end of his fourth term, but he has struggled to line up the support he needs from two-thirds of lawmakers.
The program ends in 2020 if lawmakers don’t renew it. The Senate backed it 28-12.
In the Assembly, 54 votes are needed to pass it, but Democrats had only 53 members present. That makes Republican support essential.
But the governor’s plan has mobilized intense opposition from conservatives, who say it will raise costs in an already expensive state, as well as from liberals, who say it’s too timid for progressive California.
Brown sounded an apocalyptic tone in a rare personal appeal before a Senate committee last week, saying that failing to pass the extension would lead to fires, disease, and mass migration, not to mention higher prices for food and gasoline.
Environmental groups and business interests echo Brown’s refrain that cap-and-trade is the most affordable way to meet the state’s climate goals.
Cap-and-trade puts a limit on carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. Some permits, or allowances, are given away; others are auctioned, generating billions of dollars for the state.
Lawmakers are considering a two-measure package, one to renew cap-and-trade through 2030 and another aimed at improving local air quality.
Republicans introduced a plan to require a one-time supermajority vote to spend revenue from cap-and-trade pollution permits collected after 2023, which could give the party more of a voice in the future.
State law requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 — among the most aggressive mandates for carbon reduction in the world.
Without cap-and-trade, regulators will be forced to enact restrictions on polluters that would be burdensome for businesses and more expensive for consumers, Brown said.
The legislation shows the division between environmentalists who focus on reducing global carbon emissions and advocates who work locally. The latter group says cap-and- trade lets polluters keep fouling the air around big sources of pollution, like refineries.
Some advocates object to concessions Brown made to the oil industry and other polluters in a bid to win support from Republicans and moderate Democrats. And some lawmakers question why Brown urgently wants to extend a program that doesn’t expire for another 2½ years. Brown says extending it now would give businesses the certainty they need to plan.
Brown made a trip to China last month, plans to attend a climate summit in Germany in November, and will host a climate conference next year in San Francisco.
Environmental critics of Brown’s plan called on Democrats to craft a more liberal alternative. They said Brown’s plan is too friendly to the oil industry and is not aggressive enough to save the planet from climate change.