Home Politics Populist buzz puts Democrats on the defensive on climate

Populist buzz puts Democrats on the defensive on climate

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (from left) signs a climate agreement with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan. Officials now wonder if they didn't tout the benefits of carbon pricing enough.

Leaders across the continent who have adopted aggressive climate policies face a political backlash as the programs raise the cost of electricity, home heating and even common goods.

In New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and California – and even Canada – concerns about the costs of curbing greenhouse gas emissions are fueling electoral revolts and prompting some liberals to scale back or rethink their own climate ambitions.

Take Washington, where the state’s year-old program faces a ballot initiative in November that would halt the effort, which aims to reduce the state’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. ballot initiative is backed by a conservative hedge fund manager.

Washington’s cap-and-trade program “does nothing but make gas, groceries and food more expensive,” Brian Heywood, the ballot measure’s sponsor, said in an interview. “I call it the ‘Hey, buy a Tesla, bro’ mentality.”

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, one of the country’s leading advocates in aggressively fighting climate change, has no regrets. “This is a fight worth having,” he said in an interview. “Go ahead.”

The last time Congress considered putting a price on carbon, it sparked a major backlash that helped Democrats lose the House and left them with lasting political scars. State leaders are again testing the willingness of American voters to adopt aggressive tactics that will help combat climate change while costing everyone more money.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already discovered what a potent problem carbon pricing has become: The Liberal leader’s re-election bid is in jeopardy due, in part, to an April 1 increase in the national tax to carbon that has sparked protests and widespread opposition.

Now governors face some of the same consequences. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro bowed to opposition from Republicans, labor groups and fossil fuel interests to the Northeast’s carbon pricing program and proposed hisinstead, the state’s carbon cap, prompting immediate criticism from both parties and doubts that it can pass in a divided Legislature.

And New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, amid growing opposition from the state’s business community, is considering neutralizing her nascent self-defense program. She has proposed a price cap so low that it would not spur enough reductions to ensure New York meets its 2030 emissions goal of 40 percent below 1990 levels.

“Cost is one of those things that could ultimately defeat the effort,” said former New York Department of Environmental Conservation Director Basil Seggos, who resigned earlier this month after nearly nine years at the post. “The governor… wants to see a program that is affordable.”

The push for carbon pricing, touted as the most economically efficient way to address climate change, has been slow to come. The last time Congress seriously considered putting a price on carbon emissions was 15 years ago.

But since then, the concept, which requires high-emitting companies to buy carbon credits at state auctions or pay a flat fee per ton of carbon emissions, has been quietly gaining traction. Programs in California, Canada and the Northeast have raised about $25 billion for state coffers since 2005. The one in Washington has raised $2 billion since it began last year. The cap for the entire New York economy would begin in 2025.

Inslee wants to link his program with those in California and Quebec, which would make North America’s largest carbon market even bigger. In all the programs on the continent, the industrial emissions of about 1,000 companies are covered.

“This is very important from a national perspective,” Inslee said. “We have taken a step forward. The nation should not retreat and we must extend our measures to the entire country.”

Officials now wonder if they didn’t tout the benefits enough.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is highlighting a semi-annual credit on residents’ utility bills, which redistributes some of the auction revenue.

“I haven’t seen a lot of headlines, but a $146 rebate went to all ratepayers in terms of their electric bill to offset those costs,” he said last week. “I think we need to be more aware than in the past of piling up costs at a precious and important time.”

In Canada, support for carbon pricing (Trudeau’s signature policy) has eroded as high interest rates and cost-of-living concerns have taken over. The backlash has put Trudeau, with declining popularity, on the defensive: his own Liberals have exempted home heating oil from the fuel surcharge and are selling the policy’s rebate checks as an affordability measure rather than a climate program.

And Canada’s left-leaning New Democratic Party, in a surprise move, recently withdrew its support for the Trudeau government’s fuel consumption charge, suggesting there are more effective policies to combat climate change.

Meanwhile, rival Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is betting that long-term anger over the carbon tax can help his party win the next election, due in October next year, and ultimately unseat Trudeau from office. office.

“There is a lot of political pressure. I’m certainly feeling it; everyone should feel it from people who are worried about affordability, who are worried about climate change,” Trudeau told reporters earlier this month.

A worker stands on a steam-assisted gravity dewatering platform at Cenovus' Sunrise oil facility. In Canada, support for carbon pricing has eroded as high interest rates and cost-of-living concerns have taken over.

But the most high-profile fight over carbon pricing is taking place in Washington.

Gasoline prices have soared in Washington to about $1 above the national average and higher than neighboring Oregon. according to AAAalthough Inslee’s office disputes whether the entire increase is related to the cap-and-trade program. A survey conducted last month. Of 600 registered voters in Washington they found that 53 percent support the effort to end cap and trade, with a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.

state legislators modified the program last month to give farmers and truckers a rebate to ease the costs of fuel surcharges. But it is not enough to appease opponents.

Heywood is arguing that the industry has done in the past, but traditional businesses may not be with it. Amazon, Microsoft and even oil giant BP are helping defend Washington’s law, the announced campaign – although Mark Prentice, a campaign spokesman, declined to reveal how much money the companies have donated ahead of next month’s campaign finance filing deadline. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has also donated $1 million.

BP, who had previously opposite carbon tax proposal in the state, said he agreed with the current program “because it is an economy-wide, market-based program that can help reduce carbon emissions, attract innovation and create investment and jobs in clean energy in Washington. “

Inslee pointed to the positive health impacts that come from a carbon cap and the projects the revenue has funded, such as bus electrification. But Heywood said voters are feeling the crunch.

“It doesn’t really do anything other than make some people feel good about addressing carbon dioxide production,” he said. “And it is doing so greatly at the expense of the working class and the working poor.”

Anne C. Mulkern contributed to this report.

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