By Peter Shannon, Queen’s University
Questions from California’s battle over carbon emissions
Battles over climate change policy between state, provincial, and federal governments have been a common occurrence in 2018. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency started a row with California over emissions standards. Then EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that it would repeal automobile emissions standards set by the Obama administration and threatened to waive individual states’ power to set their own emissions standards if California was unwilling to negotiate over its own higher pollution and mileage standards. California’s Attorney General replied that California was prepared to sue the EPA if necessary to maintain its current regulations.  California followed through on this promise, filing a lawsuit with 16 other states in May.  The disagreement over emissions policy extends far beyond automobile standards: California is the only US state with a complete carbon market, although nine northeastern states have tradable emissions caps that apply only to power producers. Meanwhile, the President Trump withdrew America from the Paris climate accord, scoffed at the notion of federal climate change policy and claimed scientists predicted the polar ice caps “were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records.”  With the battle over carbon policy becoming one of the most significant issues in Californian politics, it is worth asking whether carbon pricing is a worthwhile policy and if so, which level of government should handle carbon emissions policy.