SAN FRANCISCO - California will become the first state to impose a universal cap on greenhouse gas emissions Wednesday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs into law a sweeping effort to curb global warming.
In a signing ceremony scheduled for San Francisco's picturesque Treasure Island, the Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers will celebrate a bill that has given the state global notoriety for taking the lead on an issue largely ignored by the federal government.
"We are trying to bring other people in and inspire them and work with them," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
California's efforts on global warming have been in the spotlight since Schwarzenegger and the state's legislative Democrats reached an accord last month to cut greenhouse gases.
The negotiations culminated in the last week of the session, handing the Republican governor a key victory in an election year where he has sought to portray himself as a friend to the environment. He faces state treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic nominee who also has embraced the state emissions cap.
The law imposes a first-in-the-nation emissions cap on utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants in a bid to curb the gases that scientists blame for warming the Earth. Two years ago, a state board adopted tight regulations on automobile tailpipe emissions, an initiative that is being challenged in federal court by automakers.
State reports have predicted the effects of global warming could be severe for the state, leading to earlier melting of the Sierra snowpack and threats to the state's water supply. It also could lead to changes in the growing season in the nation's No. 1 agricultural producer, even jeopardizing the Napa Valley wine industry.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will participate in the bill-signing ceremony via satellite. In August, he and Schwarzenegger reached an agreement for California and Great Britain to develop new technologies to combat global warming.
New York Gov. George Pataki will join Schwarzenegger at signing events in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Schwarzenegger also will sign a second Democrat-sponsored global warming bill with consequences beyond the state's borders. That bill will prohibit California's large utilities and corporations from entering long-term power contracts with suppliers whose electricity sources do not meet the state's greenhouse gas emission standards.
The measure is intended to force coal plants in the western U.S. to install cleaner technologies.
California's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions from industry and automobiles are part of a goal to reduce the state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, an estimated 25 percent reduction. California is the world's 12th largest producer of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere.
Schwarzenegger issued an executive order in 2005 calling for an even more ambitious reduction — cutting the levels of greenhouse gases to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In an interview Tuesday, Schwarzenegger described the law as one step in a long-term strategy by the nation's most populous state to combat global climate change. He said the state should further reduce industrial emissions and adopt initiatives such as placing greater emphasis on renewable energy and hydrogen-fueled cars.
The industrial emissions cap has been praised by environmentalists as a step toward fighting global climate change, but business leaders have warned that it will increase their costs and force them to scale back their California operations.