Schwarzenegger signs law to fight global warming

Updated: 2006-09-28 09:20

SAN FRANCISCO - In a move backers hope will inspire other states to follow suit, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a pioneering law on Wednesday aimed at reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks before signing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 on Treasure Island off the San Francisco coast Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006. Schwarzenegger signed into law a sweeping global warming initiative that imposes the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions, saying the effort kicks off 'a bold new era of environmental protection.' [AP]

"We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history," Schwarzenegger said.

The measure passed by the Democrat-dominated legislature last month caps the state's man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most populous U.S. state seeks to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of around 25 percent.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is also a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which has opposed mandatory caps to fight climate change, from a state that has often led the way nationally in new environmental standards.

President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol in 2001, saying forced reductions in greenhouse gases would damage the economy and unfairly excluded developing nations.

"Other countries like India and China, Brazil and Mexico will join us when they see all the great work that we are doing," Schwarzenegger said. "Also our federal government will follow us -- trust me."

Details on how the state will achieve the emission cuts have not been worked out.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the audience at the bill-signing ceremony by video link-up.

"This will echo right around the rest of the world," Blair said. "You are showing brilliant leadership that will inspire a lot of people worldwide.

Opponents of the California measure say it will drive firms to states without such regulations in place and will fail to lead to a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if other states do not follow California's lead.

By embracing measures such as the global warming bill, Schwarzenegger has also benefited politically in a state dominated by Democrats.


After a politically disastrous 2005 in which he badly lost a special initiative election he called, Schwarzenegger has worked closely with Democrats in recent months. Two polls out on Wednesday show him with a comfortable lead over his Democratic rival, State Treasurer Phil Angelides.

Schwarzenegger spoke at Treasure Island, an aging former U.S. Navy base that awaits major reconstruction and has stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.

Joining the event was New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, who came a week after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged with Schwarzenegger to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying they could not wait for the Bush Administration to take action on climate change.

Schwarzenegger also on Wednesday signed a bill that will prohibit California utilities from signing long-term contracts to buy electricity from out-of-state, coal-fired power plants. About a fifth of the electricity used in California comes from coal-fired plants out of state. The law will not impact power contracts already in place.

The law requires new out-of-state coal-fired power plants to meet California's stringent emissions rules for new natural gas-fired power plants. This requirement in effect prohibits new coal-fired plants from selling power to California.