Tim McMahan Outlines Western States’ Efforts to Respond to Climate Change

“Cap-and-trade will not meet the lofty expectations of the Green New Deal. But it just might work.”

—Tim McMahan in Solar Industry/NA Windpower.

Energy and environmental attorney Tim McMahan authored an article for POWER magazine titled “The ‘Green New Deal’ Out West,” published February 12, 2019, and an article for Solar Industry titled “With Cap-And-Trade, West Coast States Are Building Out A Green New Deal,” published March 5, 2019 (also published by North American Windpower, March 7, 2019). The articles discuss actions being undertaken by Oregon, Washington and California to address climate change.

The “Green New Deal,” launched by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February and more “manifesto than mandate,” according to McMahan, is in part a response to two years of inaction on climate change on the part of the Trump administration and contains initiatives that would address climate change as well as a range of other concerns in the U.S. Its objectives include building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, overhauling aging infrastructure and implementing a zero-emission power system that would be backed up by carbon capture.

The Western states have already been active in trying to achieve similar goals with respect to climate change.

California has had a cap-and-trade program in place for more than a decade, which was extended last year through 2030 with deepened regulatory targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by that year. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 100, which increases the state’s renewable portfolio standard and also mandates that the electricity grid provide 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045.

In 2018, Washington moved to enact an aggressive carbon pricing program, efforts that were defeated both in the legislature and at the ballot box. In both Washington and in Oregon bills have been introduced and are moving through the state legislatures that, if passed, will establish a cap-and-trade system, integrating programs from California north into Canada. The Washington and Oregon legislation is part of broader efforts in those states to address greenhouse gas emissions through market-based approaches.

While acknowledging challenges ahead, including establishing fair and reasonable means of addressing existing industrial operations, McMahan concludes, “The Western seaboard states are not waiting for Congress, nor are they placing their bets on utopian manifestos. Cap-and-trade programs do not promise a 10-year transition to a 100% carbon-free economy. But they do challenge industry to participate in market-based programs that, if successful, will spur innovation and stimulate private and public investments.”

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