California first, again

With adoption of the nation’s first comprehensive, state-administered cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, California once again leads the way in combating climate change.

The new California Air Resources Board regulations are the centerpiece of Assembly Bill 32, California’s historic climate-change law that mandates a reduction in GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Beginning in 2013, the state’s largest carbon emitters must either meet the pollution caps set for them or buy credits from other emitters who have been successful in reducing emissions.

The system isn’t perfect. For example, environmentalists worry that it will enable refineries located in or near poor communities to continue polluting at current levels, as long as they buy credits. But if cap-and-trade works, it could go a long way toward convincing other states and Congress that it’s an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases.