California's key climate change program aims for new life

In advance of a political showdown in the state Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration made its first formal effort Tuesday to extend the life of the program central to California’s bid to combat climate change.

The California Air Resources Board, which is controlled by the governor, released a plan that would continue the state’s cap-and-trade program to cut carbon emissions beyond 2020, the date when the program currently expires.

Cap and trade functions by forcing companies to buy permits in order to pollute, providing a financial incentive for power plants, oil refineries, manufacturers and other businesses to reduce their emissions. Money from the program finances high-profile projects, such as the state's bullet train and electric car subsidies, alongside other efforts to cut pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The new plan would provide stronger links to similar programs in Canada, better align with federal clean power standards and give the state a mechanism to meet Brown's aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets through at least 2030, according to a report from the board.