New Jersey to Climate: Drop Dead

It looks like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will become the first governor to pull his state out of the country's only operating greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

Christie said Thursday he was yanking New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by the end of the year because, he claims, it isn't working. The program, which also includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, aims to reduce emissions from power plants by 10 percent by 2018.

In outlining his reasons for withdrawing from RGGI, Christie explained that the state's emissions are now at lower levels than its stated 2020 goals, while the cost of RGGI's carbon permits is simply too cheap to inspire any behavior changes. New laws promote clean energy, he said, also announcing a moratorium on new coal plants in New Jersey.

"We remain completely committed to the idea that we have as a responsibility as a state to make the environment of our state and of the world better," Christie said. "We have an obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and we're going to do it in the concrete ways that I've laid out here today. We're not going to do it by participating in gimmicky programs that haven't worked."

Unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Christie, often referred to as a potential presidential candidate, affirmed his belief that climate change is real and at least partly caused by human activity.

"I can't claim to fully understand all of this. Certainly not after just a few months of study," Christie said. "But when you have over 90 percent of the world's scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it's time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we're just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans' role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem."

Others, particularly some prominent GOP presidential candidates, have backpedaled on past support of climate change science and legislation. In a story published this week, the Associated Press detailed how Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have all pulled climate change flip-flops to appeal to their conservative bases.

Gingrich, who famously co-starred with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a commercial three years ago promoting climate change action, has recently called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be abolished and questioned the link between human activity and climate change. Pawlenty, who signed a law committing Minnesota to cut its emissions and publicly encouraged Congress to act, now calls his stance a "mistake."

In terms of RGGI, other states, including Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire, have weighed withdrawing from the program in the past, but legislators squashed those efforts. Nationally, New Mexico's new governor has also tried to gut the state's green regulations, while Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona put a stop to the state's participation in another regional cap-and-trade program, the Western Climate Initiative scheduled to begin next year.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user pwbaker.