Mention of global warming missing from states’ energy pact

Source: By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle • Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016

California Gov. Jerry Brown may have found a way to get some of his Republican counterparts to sign on to the clean energy revolution — drop all mention of climate change.

Brown and a bipartisan group of 16 other governors announced an agreement Tuesday to increase renewable power, integrate electricity grids across state lines and boost the number of cars running on alternatives fuels.

The accord they signed touts clean energy as a way to boost state economies, cut pollution and improve public health. And nowhere does it discuss climate change, renewable power’s main raison d’etre. (The accord, dated Tuesday, does include one brief mention of sea-level rise, which it lumps in with other “extreme weather events.”)

“The whole genius of this accord is that we’re bringing together parties, governors of different philosophies,” Brown said Tuesday on a conference call with Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.

Brown acknowledged that the agreement does not address global warming, one of his key issues and the focus of previous partnerships he has forged with other states. By setting it aside, the new plan may be able to sidestep the polarization that has blocked congressional action on climate change, he said.

“It takes not too much research to recognize there’s a very sharp cleavage on this issue, a lot of partisanship,” Brown said. “We want to move forward. We want to get done important stuff without getting bogged down in the larger controversy.”

Sandoval, for example, told an interviewer in 2014 that he was “not qualified to answer that question” when asked whether human activity was the main cause of global warming.

On Tuesday, he bragged of the $4.3 billion that companies have invested in renewable power projects within his state since 2009. The state already exports one-third of all the geothermal, solar and wind energy it generates, and more projects are on the way.

When asked on Tuesday whether the new accord would eventually tackle climate change, Sandoval deferred. “I’m sure it will come up, going forward,” he said. “Right now, the focus is on what we have on the ground.”

In additional to Sandoval, only three of the governors signing the accord are Republicans, those representing Iowa, Massachusetts and Michigan. Michigan is among 26 states suing the federal government to block one of President Obama’s most significant climate change regulations, the Clean Power Plan, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Brown has made a point of pushing sub-national governments — states and foreign provinces alike — to tackle climate change together. His Under 2 MOU, for example, now includes 127 jurisdictions from 27 countries. All of them have agreed to slash their greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent to 95 percent by 2050, or limit per capita emissions to 2 tons of carbon dioxide by the same year.

The Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future, announced Tuesday, focuses on principles and avenues for discussion more than concrete steps. The governors agree to expand renewable power production, upgrade their electricity grids and further integrate grid operations across state borders, as well as boost the use of electric cars, fuel-cell vehicles and other forms of clean transportation.

The other governors signing the accord represent Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @DavidBakerSF