Schwarzenegger, B.C. sign green accord

VANCOUVER, B.C. – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as Schwarzenegger wrapped up a three-day visit to Canada.

The pact, known as the Pacific Coast Collaborative to Protect Our Shared Climate and Oceans, commits the two jurisdictions to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work on the development and implementation of clean technologies, but is not legally binding.

The deal signed Thursday commits both areas to work together to protect the waters off the Pacific coast of North America, a significant portion of which are bordered by the state and province.

A major part of the agreement is the commitment to build a so-called hydrogen highway between British Columbia and Baja California to foster the use of zero-emission vehicles. The collaboration, which also includes Oregon and Washington, is a previously agreed-to plan to build fueling stations along the highway, so that by 2010 a hydrogen-powered vehicle could travel that route.

Schwarzenegger praised President Bush’s proposal Thursday urging 15 major nations to agree by the end of next year on a global target for reducing greenhouse gases.

“That means they are acknowledging the global warming,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference. “I think that is a really great step forward in the right direction.”

Schwarzenegger earlier criticized the American and Canadian federal governments that have been hesitant to adopt the 1997 Kyoto Protocol requiring industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2012.

Canada was a signatory to the deal, but announced in April that it would not meet its Kyoto commitments and released a new plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

“We have to show leadership,” he said. “If we are waiting for them to do the same thing, it would never happen.”

The governor’s comments came as President Bush sought to blunt international criticism of the U.S. record on climate change.

Bush called for a series of meetings to begin this fall, bringing together countries identified as major emitters of greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming. That list would include the United States, China, India and major European countries. After setting a goal, the nations would be free to develop their own strategies to meet the target.

The United States has refused to ratify the landmark Kyoto protocol. Developing countries, including China and India, were exempt from that first round of cuts.

The pact with British Columbia, similar to one Schwarzenegger signed earlier this week with the province of Ontario, is not legally binding and imposes no obligations on either California or B.C.

Because no other state has adopted California’s emissions caps, the agreements are largely symbolic, and their effects, if any, are years away.

The Republican governor has also struck deals with several other U.S. states and one in Australia, drawing concern from Democrats in the California Legislature who originally crafted California’s landmark global warming law. They worry the governor is using the agreements to help shift the emphasis of the law from strict regulation toward an emission trading system favored by businesses that could weaken it.

The agreement signed Thursday also provides for the sharing of information on coastal resources and health, including monitoring and management of marine protection areas and synchronization of environmental protection at Pacific ports.

“By working in partnership with California and other coastal jurisdictions, we can continue to lead in sustainable environmental management and improve the quality and impact of oceans research,” Campbell said.

Currently, the states of Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as British Columbia, are partners in the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.

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