Climate Policy Advances in the States, but Slowly

Ken James/BLOOMBERG

Ken James/BLOOMBERG

While Tuesday’s election may not break the national logjam over how to address climate change, a few states will take decisive action on energy policy in the coming week.

On Nov. 14, California will hold the nation’s largest-ever auction of carbon pollution allowances, requiring many of the state’s biggest utilities and manufacturers to either cut their greenhouse-gas output or buy permits to compensate for it. Michigan residents vote Tuesday on whether the state will require that 25 percent of its electricity be produced from renewable energy by 2025. And Washington state voters will choose as governor either Jay Inslee, a Democratic former congressman and outspoken proponent of carbon limits, or his Republican opponent, Rob McKenna, a two-term attorney general.

Four years ago, some policymakers and environmentalists predicted that the United States would lock in major cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions from multi-state initiatives in the West, Midwest and Northeast. That hasn’t exactly happened: The recession and the election of some Republican governors have curbed some of the most ambitious efforts to address climate change.

But the push to expand renewable energy, which would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by producing electricity without burning fossil fuels, does continue on the state level. And California is pressing ahead — without the six states that initially planned to join it — with a trading system that will allow the state’s major carbon emitters to buy and sell pollution allowances.

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