Sweeping climate change legislation may have to wait until December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, but California is getting a head start on cutting down corporate emissions with the first statewide fee for greenhouse gas polluters. The fee, which will heavily affect 380 natural gas, coal, electricity, and petroleum companies–a group that represents 85% of California’s emissions–could raise $63 million for the state in its first year. All the cash gathered from the program will go towards the enforcement of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, a law passed in 2006 that requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020.
The fee is relatively small–15 cents per metric ton of CO2, with an expected drop to 9 cents in 2014–but the point isn’t to punish polluters, even though large companies like Pacific Gas & Electric could see fees in the millions. California just wants to finance its global warming bill without passing on charges to consumers.
Small fees will, however, hit small business owners. A grocery store, for example, might get charged $120 per year, while a restaurant could incur fees of $17 per year. Homeowners will see an even more negligible increase in fees, with expected charges of 77 cents per year in electricity and 80 cents for fuel.
Regardless of the size of the fees, California’s program can keep emissions down until the state’s cap-and-trade program goes into effect in 2012. The program will also act as a guidepost for other cities and states considering similar programs. That group of locales may grow after December’s Copenhagen conference.