Today in Cleantech

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program has been put on hold — not by wealthy polluters or right-wing ideologues, but by a judge upholding a lawsuit saying the law doesn’t go far enough. In a decision well-forecast by a March ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith on Friday enjoined the California Air Resources Board from moving forward with its carbon cap-and-trade system set to start in January 2012. Created by AB32, the law that seeks to return the state to its 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020, the cap-and-trade program would have been a landmark for the U.S. in setting terms and prices for carbon trading. But in holding up a lawsuit from environmental and advocacy groups, Goldsmith found the state hadn’t looked at all available alternatives, such as carbon taxes or outright bans on emissions, that could work better to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, those alternatives are politically unfeasible, making it unclear just how the plaintiffs in the case expect their argument to lead to a better outcome for the people they represent in low-income areas disproportionately affected by local sources of pollution. The state has said it will appeal the ruling, which doesn’t effect other aspects of AB32, such as the state’s renewable portfolio standard calling for one-third renewable energy by 2020, or its low-carbon fuel standard for in-state vehicles.

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