SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers moved closer Monday to a high-stakes decision that will decide the fate of a climate initiative that Gov. Jerry Brown holds up as a model to be replicated around the world to confront rising global temperatures.
Debate had begun on whether to give another decade of life to California’s cap-and-trade program has global implications as the largest U.S. state moves to be a leader in reducing carbon emissions at a time when President Donald Trump is pulling back from fighting global warming.
Brown portrays the initiative 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’s struggled to line up support from two-thirds of lawmakers that he will need.
The program expires in 2020 if lawmakers don’t renew it. The real battle is in the Assembly, where 54 votes are needed to pass it but where Democrats have only 53 members present due to a lawmaker’s longstanding absence and a fresh vacancy from another who went to Congress. That makes Republican support essential.
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But the 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.
Cap and trade puts a limit on carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. Some permits, known as allowances, are given away while others are auctioned, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the state.
Lawmakers are considering a package of measures, one to renew cap and trade through 2030 and another aimed at improving local air quality. Senate leadership added a third measure as debate began that would give Republicans more of a say in how to spend money collected through cap and trade.
Brown sounded an apocalyptic tone in a rare personal appeal before a Senate committee last week, telling lawmakers that failing to pass the extension would lead to fires, disease and mass migration, not to mention higher costs for food and gasoline.
The idea is supported by national environmental groups and business interests, which echo Brown’s refrain that cap and trade is the most affordable way for California to meet its ambitious climate goals.
State law requires California…