Poll finds support for extending CO2 policies, even if prices rise

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 29, 2016

California’s landmark law to reduce greenhouse gases still enjoys strong support 10 years after its passage, and voters have an appetite to take on further climate policies, according to a new survey.

Sixty-nine percent of Californians back A.B. 32, the 2006 law that set a target of 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2020, according to the poll released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). A similar percentage — 68 percent — support extending the law to 2030, as a bill currently in the state Legislature would do.

The poll comes as lawmakers are debating whether to enshrine a 2030 emissions target in state law. S.B. 32, by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D), would set a target of 40 percent below 1990 levels, in line with an executive order from Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (ClimateWire, June 16).

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D) said the poll demonstrated a “clear majority” of support for the bill. Lawmakers return from recess next week.

“California has the will and strength to act, and our people fundamentally understand our climate agenda needs to be strengthened — not weakened — in order to create a sustainable future with cleaner air for our children and grow a renewable energy sector that is now a pillar of our economy,” he said. “This is why the Legislature should extend our climate targets in statute by passing Senate Bill 32.”

Support for A.B. 32 has become much more partisan over time. In 2006, the law saw similar levels of overall support, but Democrats and Republicans were equally supportive, at 67 percent and 65 percent approval, respectively. Today, 80 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans support A.B. 32, with similar percentages in favor of extending the targets to 2030.

The poll also found a “surprising willingness” to pay higher prices related to climate policies. While a majority of likely voters — 59 percent — said they expected gasoline prices to rise as a result of climate laws, 64 percent and 63 percent, respectively, still said they supported A.B. 32 and its successor bill. Twenty percent of respondents said they thought the law would lead to job losses.

“We find strong support today for the state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets set 10 years ago,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president and CEO. “The commitment to help reduce global warming includes a surprising willingness on the part of majorities of Californians to pay higher prices.”

Previous surveys have found that voters lack awareness of one of the law’s signature programs, cap and trade. The latest poll confirms that a majority of Californians — 55 percent — still have heard nothing about the market-based system.

When respondents were informed that gas prices have indeed risen about 11 cents per gallon as a result of cap and trade but were also presented with a list of programs that have received funding from the proceeds of the auctions, 52 percent of respondents and 49 percent of likely voters said they would keep the market working as is.

Clinton, Harris widen leads in Calif.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and state Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) are increasing their lead among California voters, the poll also found. Clinton leads Donald Trump among likely voters, 46 percent to 30 percent — a wider margin than in May’s poll, which had her leading 49 percent to 39 percent.

Harris leads Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) in the race for California’s open Senate seat by 18 points, 38 percent to 20 percent, compared to an 8-point lead in May.

The survey of 1,703 California adults was conducted July 10-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Funding for the poll came from the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Pisces Foundation and S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.