Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment

The President, Climate Change, and California

Ann Carlson


In the Harvard Law Review Forum​, ​Professor Ann Carlson explains how a focus on California can help President Obama to fulfill his pledge to combat climate change through executive action. Professors Richard Lazarus and Michael Gerrard also contributed reaction pieces on the President's pledge.

At the risk of parochialism, I have one word of advice for President Obama and his advisors in implementing his promise to address climate change through executive action: California. A focus on California has already led the President to his most significant action to date on climate change, the adoption of tough nationwide standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. If he continues that focus, we may see the extension of California’s landmark economy-wide carbon cap-and-trade program to other states. Indeed it is conceivable that through existing executive authority the President could establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from most of the country’s largest emitters. With the President’s leadership, we could also see real increases in the development of alternative fuels to replace or at least reduce carbon-based transportation fuels through support of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). And none of these accomplishments require congressional action...