California Is More Like China Than U.S. on CO2

California air regulators are speaking more with Chinese and South Korean governments than with U.S. officials, as the eighth-largest economy and the Asian nations prepare to launch cap-and-trade programs.

“I don’t say that with pride,” said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, which will administer the state’s system when compliance begins in 2013. “It’s simply a fact that those countries in particular are moving very aggressively in market programs and they want to come and spend time to learn in detail how we’re doing it here.”

China, which aims to cut carbon intensity by 17 percent between 2010 and 2015, has asked several cities and provinces to develop cap-and-trade pilot programs. Its goal is to launch a national program by 2015. South Korea is also set to start emission trading in 2015.

Nichols said California’s cap-and-trade program is “the icing on the cake” of AB 32 – a 2006 climate change law that seeks to lower state emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

California is scheduled to hold its first auction of carbon permits in November. Nichols said the revenue must support the goals of AB 32 and suggested a large part will be invested in reducing emissions in the transportation sector. This could include helping an ambitious $68 billion high-speed rail project that aims to link the state’s population centers in the north and south, she said.

Q: California has set a permit floor price of $10 a metric ton, rising to $15 by 2020. Is that enough to encourage long-term investment in clean energy? Read more here>>

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