Yesterday in New York, global leaders gathered to talk about global warming solutions at the UN. President Bush skipped the talks, in favor of preparing for his own summit later in the week, and put forth the idea that sovereign nations should be entitled to set their own standards. Not that the U.S. went unrepresented-- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger spoke about his state's efforts (on its own and in concert with others) to contribute to a broader solution:
Schwarzenegger did not hide his feelings that California, rather than the Bush administration, is guiding U.S. policy on greenhouse gases.
"California is moving the United States beyond debate and doubt to action," Schwarzenegger declared. "So I urge this body to push its members to action also."
The partnership forged in the vacuum created by federal inaction and delay between international actors and state/local leaders like Schwarzenegger represents real progress and the potential beginnings of a dynamic framework for addressing global warming at every level of society. But it remains incomplete so long as the federal government, like the auto industry, continues to prefer obstruction and weakly-grounded legal maneuverings the face of repeated invitations to join in forging shared solutions.
It's fitting, then, that simultaneously another elected official from California-- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee-- released email records showing that the Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, coordinated White-House-approved efforts to lobby against California's request for an EPA waiver to enforce stricter emissions standards that other states could copy.
The delicious irony is that, at the same time as the administration moves to thwart California and other states, its own State Department has been citing those same states' efforts in order to show the UN that United States is effectively fighting climate change on its own. And just as the administration has chosen to forge its own path in the international arena, here it also has also gone around established procedure-- Peters could have simply submitted a comment to the EPA opposing the waiver application, as Waxman points out-- in pursuit of its ends.
Just as it could do a world of good by fully engaging with the international community, the administration would do well to stop thwarting California's efforts and granting its waiver applicatiom; indeed, in doing so, it would probably earn global goodwill. Instead, we're getting more acrimony, and probably more litigation:
"We're deeply disappointed to hear of confirmed reports of back-room maneuvering to deny our request," said Mary Nichols, who chairs the state's Air Resources Board. "We will move ahead with our lawsuit if the EPA fails to act in the next few weeks."
California has taken the initial steps to sue the federal government if it turns down the state's request for a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act that would approve California's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.