Strategic Perception, Inc.

Governors Join in Creating Regional Pacts on Climate Change

JOHN M. BRODER
November 15, 2007

Mauricio Vargas, Environmental Defense

CALIFORNIA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about the threat of greenhouse gases.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — Frustrated with the slow progress of legislation in Washington on energy and global warming, the nation’s governors have created regional agreements to cap greenhouse gases and are engaged in a concerted lobbying effort to prod Congress to act.

Anne Sherwood
Environmental Defense

MONTANA Gov. Brian Schweitzer telling Congress: “Do something. Anything. Move.”

Scott Klepper
Environmental Defense

UTAH Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Western governors were “setting ambitious targets.”

Beginning Monday, three Western governors will appear in a nationwide television advertising campaign sponsored by an environmental group trying to generate public and political support for climate change legislation now before the Senate.

The 30-second ad features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican of California; Jon Huntsman Jr., Republican of Utah; and Brian Schweitzer, Democrat of Montana, standing in casual clothes in scenic spots talking about the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions. The nation’s governors are acting, but Congress is not, they say. “Now it’s their turn,” Mr. Schwarzenegger says.

Separately, in Milwaukee on Wednesday, nine Midwestern governors and the premier of Manitoba signed an agreement to reduce carbon emissions and set up a trading system to meet the reduction targets. The Midwestern accord is modeled on similar regional carbon-reduction and energy-saving arrangements among Northeastern, Southwestern and West Coast states.

The advertising campaign is underwritten by Environmental Defense, an advocacy group that is pressing for quick action on a climate change proposal sponsored by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, and John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia.

The Lieberman-Warner legislation would cap carbon emissions at 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and set up a system for polluting industries to trade emissions credits to meet the goals. Like other such bills before Congress, it would provide incentives for research on capturing and storing carbon dioxide from power plants and subsidies to help the poor handle the higher costs of electricity in a carbon-constrained economy.

The bill is now before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee’s chairwoman, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, said she hoped to bring the bill to a vote of the full committee by Dec. 6. There is no schedule for action after that, however.

The governors, who did not receive a fee for appearing in the advertisement, say state leaders are moving to reduce climate-affecting emissions, while the current Congress has so far failed to pass any significant legislation on climate change or energy.

“In state after state, we’re taking action,” the governors say, taking turns speaking. “Now it’s time for Congress to act by capping greenhouse gas pollution.”

In an interview, Governor Huntsman said, “With just weeks left in the legislative calendar, there has been no vote yet dealing realistically with greenhouse gas pollution. We in the West are already wrestling with it and setting ambitious targets.”

He said action on the national level, in the form of the Lieberman-Warner legislation or a similar economywide carbon cap-and-trade scheme, was preferable to the patchwork system that state governments were putting in place.

Governor Schweitzer said dealing with global warming was the “greatest imperative” of this and future generations. “We need to find a sustainable, renewable American energy supply so we will not commit the next generation to fight another oil war,” he said.

Mr. Schweitzer added: “Here’s a novel concept for Congress. Do something. Anything. Move.”

Environmental Defense is spending $3 million to broadcast the advertisement, which will appear in 17 markets in 11 states over the next few weeks, said the group’s president, Fred Krupp. The ad will also appear during the Sunday morning talk shows on Nov. 25.

The Midwestern governors expressed similar impatience with the slow pace in Washington on global warming and energy issues. They have banded together to set up a regional emissions control program, to expand production of biofuels and to cooperate on environmental and energy infrastructure projects, like an interstate pipeline for moving carbon emissions from power plants to underground storage vaults.

Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, a Democrat who is chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association, said that the individual states in his region were all moving independently toward greater energy efficiency and planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that it made sense to work in concert.

“In the absence of a federal plan we have to move forward,” Mr. Doyle said, speaking from Milwaukee, where he was the chairman of an energy summit meeting of the Midwestern governors. “On top of that, this recognizes that, federal plan or no federal plan, the Midwest is uniquely positioned to be a major force in the developing new energy world.”

He predicted that sooner or later Washington would adopt a national cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, but he was not optimistic that it would act before President Bush leaves office.

“I suspect it will require a new administration to come in,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to prepare for it. If there comes a national cap-and-trade system, we will have done a lot of the work. If not, we will have one in the Midwestern region on a scale that can work.”