By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Five Western governors agreed Monday on a plan to cut their states’ emissions of gases linked to global warming and to establish a regional carbon trading system, though they stopped short of saying how drastically they will seek to reduce greenhouse gases.
The governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington said that within six months they will set a regional target for lower emissions. A year after that, they pledged, they will devise a regional cap-and-trade system, which would let companies that can’t meet their emission reduction targets buy credits from those that reduce emissions more than required.
“In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states to take action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country,” said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. “Western states are being particularly hard hit by the effects of climate change.”
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat seeking his party’s presidential nomination, said the five-state agreement should spur other states ahead. “You’re going to see a domino effect with more and more states taking action.”
The move won immediate praise from environmentalists. Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, said, “This regional global warming solution will benefit the environment on a global scale.”
It remained unclear how much the five states will cut their carbon dioxide emissions, and how soon they will do it. Several states on the East and West Coast have adopted reduction targets in recent years, but in the immediate term all fall short of the targets that the European Union, Canada and Japan are seeking to meet by 2012 under the international treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol.
Carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels is the biggest of the greenhouse gases, so called because they create a heat-trapping blanket when released into the atmosphere. Others are methane, nitrous oxide and synthetic gases.
California passed legislation late last year mandating a 25 percent cut below current levels of greenhouse gases, which would bring its emissions down to 1990 levels. The four other Western governors have all established reduction goals through executive orders that are slightly more modest than California’s.
Dan Skopec, undersecretary for California’s Environmental Protection Agency, said the significance of the agreement is that companies in the five states will be able to trade emissions.
The Western states’ agreement came as scientists and interest groups continued to debate the best way to curb the country’s global warming pollution. In a presentation at the National Press Club on Monday, James Hansen, the outspoken climate scientist who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that the U.S. should stop building coal-fired power plants and that older polluting utilities “must eventually be bulldozed [before mid-century].”
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.