On the federal level, climate change bills get stuck in committees like terrible pop songs get lodged in our heads. But governors on the West Coast are trying to spur action. On Monday, leaders of Oregon, Washington and California, along with a proxy for the premier of British Columbia, signed a regional pact to reduce greenhouse gases and promote clean energy—while acknowledging that their efforts would be more powerful if other states and leaders got on board.
At a press conference in San Francisco where the leaders simultaneously signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, California Gov. Jerry Brown said that “many, many steps need to be taken, and as we tie together all these initiatives, we begin to chip away at carbon emissions.” The plan touts promises to “harmonize” efforts like expanding the use of zero-emission vehicles, supporting scientific research on climate change and rewarding builders of energy-efficient buildings.
In certain respects, the manifesto is a promise for Oregon and Washington to catch up with their neighbors and present a unified West Coast front. California and British Columbia vowed to maintain their current carbon-pricing programs and low-carbon fuel standards, for example, while the other two agreed to adopt and develop their own.
In a preface to the pact, Brown touted the region’s combined economy of $2.8 trillion and population of 53 million. “California isn’t waiting for the rest of the world before it takes action on climate change,” he said in a statement. And Washington Gov. Jay Inslee doubled down on regional pride at the conference. “I don’t think it’s too much to say that on the West Coast, we intend to design the future,” he said, “not to wreck it.”
The pact isn’t legally binding but it is making a statement. “To actually utter the words ‘global warming’ is deviant and radical in 2013,” Brown said in San Francisco. “But here we are, and we’re doing it.” The challenge for progressives on the West Coast is to convince the rest of the country that “deviant” action on climate change is in their interest.