Cap-and-trade is all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which California traffic seriously contributes to.
Cap-and-trade is all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which California traffic seriously contributes to.
Photo: Getty

The Trump administration is all about giving states power—unless they’re trying to address the climate crisis. California had been working on a cap-and-trade agreement with the Canadian province of Québec until Donald Trump decided to sue the state for it last year. On Thursday, a federal judge rejected the administration’s suit.

At issue is California’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, a regional market for polluting industries to trade emissions. That’s what cap-and-trade is all about: cap local emissions and trade carbon pollution permits within that market. In this scheme, the market offers fewer and fewer permits every year, so these companies either have to find ways to emit less carbon or pay more to do so.

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Cap and trade provides an economic incentive to lower emissions, though it’s certainly not the best solution to the climate crisis. As a market, it’s something conservatives should, in theory, get behind. And these days, anything is better than nothing. Trump, however, would really love for us to continue doing nothing.

That’s why this fool sued California in 2019. His administration argued that including an entity outside the U.S. was unconstitutional. The federal government called the agreement an “independent foreign policy” and referred to it as a “treaty” in its initial complaint.

Well, the courts don’t appear to agree with that. U.S. District Judge William Shubb did not find that any foreign affairs policy is relevant here, noting it was a “limited exchange” in his opinion. He didn’t see the agreement between Québec and California as an official treaty. After all, it’s not ending a war. It does not involve cessation. And it’s not legally binding! The agreement is a good-faith deal between two parties, both of which can walk away whenever they please.

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This is a major win for California, which has been getting attacked by Trump from all sides for its climate proposals. There’s this, the fuel emissions standards exemption the state has, and even a beef over how it manages forests. The state has also hit back, fighting for its right to regulate its own economy and emissions. Luckily, the courts are proving helpful on this case so far. The Trump administration could very well appeal this, though, so this is far from the end.

Senior staff writer, Earther. All things environmental justice, please. I'm addicted to Stardew and love few things more than I love my cat.

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