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State, local officials diversify U.S. climate stance

BALI, Indonesia – A second wave of Americans has landed on this tropical island, envoys of state and local governments who have come to tell the U.N. climate conference that not all U.S. leaders oppose mandatory cuts in global warming gases.

“We are laying the groundwork for what we feel will soon be a national policy,” said California’s environmental protection secretary, Linda Adams, whose state has led the way with legislation paring down emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for rising temperatures.

Adams was referring to expected changes in U.S. national policy after the January 2009 end of the Bush administration, which has opposed emissions caps under a binding treaty.

The “other American” message will be delivered by headline spokesmen. Schedulers were trying to arrange a live video-link address to the conference by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak on Friday.

The mayor will follow by one day the appearance of climate crusader and former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from his Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.

This competition between national and state governments doesn’t faze the veteran chief U.S. climate negotiator.

“It gives the world the opportunity to see the diversity of views in the U.S.,” said Harlan Watson.

Besides Adams’ 30 Californians, larger than many countries’ delegations, a consortium of northeastern U.S. states is represented here by a New York state official, and local governments, from Annapolis, Md., to King County, Wash., who have sent chief executives or other envoys.

They began arriving last weekend, midway through the two-week, 180-plus-nation conference, and immediately entered into a schedule of presentations and meetings with European delegates and others.

In California, the threat of severe water shortages and other problems due to rising temperatures led the Republican governor and his Democratic-led Legislature last year to enact legislation to cut emissions by utility plants, oil refineries, cement factories and other major industries by an estimated 25 percent below what they otherwise would be in 2020.

The state is establishing a cap-and-trade system by which businesses can buy and sell emissions credits – selling extra allowances if they come in under their quotas, and buying them if needed to overshoot the ceiling.

Five other Western states, meanwhile, have joined California in a Western Climate Change Initiative, setting a regional goal of 15 percent greenhouse-gas cuts below 2005 levels by 2020.

The European Union, by contrast, has committed to 20 to 30 percent reductions below 1990 levels by 2020.