British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced their intention yesterday to join together to address global warming, possibly by linking markets for pollution credits in the U.S. and Europe.
California has the fifth largest economy in the world and is the twelfth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement represents a significant acceleration of the trend in which state and local governments are sidestepping the federal government’s recalcitrance on climate change.
The only thing lacking at this point are details. The meeting has been variously described as a statement of intent, an exchange of views, a pact, an agreement, etc. California has already set a goal of reducing the state’s emissions 25% by 2020. Britain is striving to overshoot its Kyoto commitments by reducing emissions 60% by 2050.
“This is an agreement to share ideas and information. It is not a treaty,” said Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger’s communications director. “Right now, all we are doing is talking about sharing ideas.”
So we’ll have to wait and see. One of the most encouraging aspects of the announcement is that global warming is now being cast in terms of economic necessity rather than just environmental stewardship. Critics of emissions caps have long insisted on a false choice between environmental preservation and jobs. As evidence of the economic implications of global warming mounts, that argument becomes increasingly difficult to make.