Would you believe there’s a state that cut pollution and cleaned up its air, while creating jobs and sustaining economic growth?
And where economic incentives, rather than costly regulations, are stimulating innovation and investment?
California passed the earliest, most comprehensive law to set a cap on carbon pollution, along with numerous other complementary policies to help the state transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy economy.
The results are now coming in and the present – and future – looks bright.
Two years after it was fully implemented, California’s cap-and-trade program is thriving, a new report [PDF] from Environmental Defense Fund shows.
The program is now ramping up as the state economy is growing, paving the way for California to pass even stronger climate policies. Perhaps most important, it’s laying the groundwork for other states and nations to move forward with similar steps.
The four top findings from our report:
1. California’s cap is driving down greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.
The state has been able to grow its economy significantly while keeping greenhouse gas pollution from rising, too.
Emissions capped under the program decreased by almost 4 percent during the first year of the program. What’s more, California’s ambitious climate change and clean energy policies have created a thriving economy that is growing faster than the overall national economy and attracting considerable amounts of investment.
Since 2006, California has received more clean-tech venture capital investment than all other states combined and leads the rest of the nation in clean-tech patent registration.
2. California has built a robust carbon market that is getting progressively stronger.
Companies can purchase allowances through quarterly auctions or on the secondary market. The results of nine successful auctions to date reflect a healthy level of interest for carbon allowances and confidence among companies in the long-term health of the program.
In addition, California successfully linked its program with Quebec’s over the past year, proving that motivated governments can work effectively together and do more in partnership than they can alone.
This outcome may inspire similar linkages around the world.
3. Companies are taking the program seriously.
Every single company regulated by California’s carbon cap acquired enough allowances to meet their first compliance deadline.
This proves, in a strong way, that companies are incorporating the price on carbon into their business models and actively planning how they will comply with the regulation.
4. Success begets confidence and commitment in climate policies.
During the 2013-2014 California legislative session, several bills designed to strengthen the cap-and-trade program passed, while measures that would have harmed or derailed the program all failed to move forward.
Gov. Jerry Brown and other state government leaders have called for more ambitious goals to be set beyond the current 2020 goal.
California’s success creates momentum for national and global climate action, offering lessons and insights to other states and nations all over the world that are weighing similar actions to help avert the worst effects of climate change.
In fact, cities, states, and regions are at the front lines of developing effective solutions chart the path for climate progress on a much bigger scale.
Cap-and-trade is not the only answer to climate change.
But the results from California’s program show that with a long-term vision and strong leadership – along with effective collaboration between government, businesses and communities, stakeholders – it’s one of the strongest answers we’ve got.