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Gary Hunt is Founder & President, TCLABZ, disruptive innovation strategy adviser to energy technology and information services companies on leveraging intellectual property for scalable growth and go-to-market strategies. His checkered past includes stints as VP-Global Analytics & Data at... More
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  • California Prop 23: Knock Out Punch for Climate Change Legislation?  0 comments
    Aug 17, 2010 6:01 PM


    First it was meltdown of a global climate change treaty at COP15 then Waxman-Markey legislation failed to thrive in Congress---now Proposition 23 to suspend the California Global Warming Solutions Act could be the third strike for environmental advocates.

    The political calculus is being reset after the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes to pass a climate change bill like Waxman-Markey.  Proponents of climate change legislation now must focus state by state to keep the pressure on climate policies while simultaneously working the Federal agencies to adopt rules to achieve some of their goals.  This is a long slog but the strategy seems to be to use the members in state and local environmental action groups across the country to put pressure on state and local officials for actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    This Plan B strategy has begun to appear here in California as opponents of Proposition 23 begin to mobilize to defeat this November 2010 ballot measure to suspend the California Global Warming Solutions Act until unemployment in California is 5.5% or lower for four consecutive quarters.

    What is Proposition 23?

    The ballot measure is sponsored and funded by two of the state’s largest oil refiners Valero and Tesoro, the Adam Smith Foundation and a collection of others with similar interests.  A good summary of the history of the ballot measure and its funders can be found on Ballotpedia. The measure avoided a direct repeal attempt by proposing instead to suspend its operation until unemployment levels fall below 5.5% for two years.  This level of employment has not been seen in California since 2007 and opponents of the proposition call this proposal a ruse.

    The independent California Legislative Analyst has said that overall economic activity in the state would improve modestly is AB32 is suspended and energy prices would be slightly lower. But the real impact would be political sweeping away California’s leading edge reputation for environmental leadership.  Depending upon where you are on the issue you will either cheer or bemoan that consequence.  But it would be a stunning reversal of fortunes for climate change advocates.

    So What?

    The disappointment of the advocates for climate change legislation at the failure of Congress to pass legislation this session is real.  But that disappointment is turning to worry that progress in the States could be undermined by proposals like Proposition 23.  The Plan B strategy is a shift from playing offense to defending past gains on the defense.  California figures to be one of its first big tests in the November 2010 Prop 23 decision.  The mid July Field Poll found that 36% of likely voters surveyed favored Proposition 23 while 48% opposed it.

    Stay tuned.

    Disclosure: No positions
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