Facing recent years of drought, record heat waves and major wildfires, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed an agreement with the leaders of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia to accelerate and expand efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and address the impacts of climate change.
The “statement of cooperation,” unveiled at a news conference in San Francisco at the Presidio, was the latest effort by Newsom and other Democratic leaders to raise the profile of climate change and to take steps to continue to increase renewable energy, boost electric vehicles and widen efforts to thin fire-prone forests.
“This is not about electric power, this is about economic power,” Newsom said. “This is about dominating the next big global industry.”
Newsom signed the agreement with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan.
Although the West Coast governments already are national leaders on environmental and climate issues, the event and the document Thursday were more of a photo opportunity and a general statement of principles than a binding contract.
The agreement’s fine print noted that “this document shall have no legal effect, impose no legally-binding obligation enforceable in any court of law or other tribunal of any sort, nor create any funding expectation.”
“Generally, I think these sort of subnational statements are important, politically and symbolically, because they can help push national governments to do more on climate action,” said Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
But he noted that there is no guarantee to make sure any of the parties follow through.
“There’s no enforcement mechanism here other than public pressure,” Elkind said, “but at least the pledges provide a way for the public to measure action.”
California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia have 57 million residents — twice the population of Texas and three times the population of New York state — with a combined economy of $3.5 trillion, the fifth largest in the world, just behind Germany.
Among the goals set out in Thursday’s agreement:
– Coordinate the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations on the West Coast
– Expand zero-emission rules to trucks
– Invest more money in ports to allow large ships to plug into electric power rather than running engines off high-polluting bunker fuel
– Accelerate forest treatments, such as thinning and prescribed fire, to reduce wildfire risk
– Help public and private institutions electrify their vehicle fleets
– Focus more attention on low-income communities with help on renewable energy projects, energy efficient buildings, cooling centers during heat waves and other efforts.
The partnership was originally set up in 2008, and endorsed at the time by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then, it also included Alaska. Updates were signed in 2013 and 2016 by former Gov. Jerry Brown.
All three of the governors who signed the agreement Thursday are Democrats.
Newsom has large leads in the polls heading into the Nov. 8 election and is widely expected to beat Republican Brian Dahle.
In Oregon, Brown is leaving office early next year after two terms. A close race for her successor could result in the election of Republican Christine Drazan, who would be Oregon’s first Republican governor in 35 years, and who has opposed efforts to pass cap-and-trade programs and other mandates to reduce greenhouse gases. In Washington, Jay Inslee, who ran for president in 2020 with climate change as his main issue, will be up for a fourth term in 2024.
Horgan is a member of Canada’s New Democratic Party, which is a left-leaning party similar to the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
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