In a very interesting intersection of the international with the local, California and San Bernardino County reached settlement yesterday in a suit challenging the county’s growth plan on climate change grounds. Under the settlement, the disputed general plan will remain in effect, but “[t]he County agrees to use best efforts to prepare and adopt the General Plan amendment, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan, and the environmental review of those documents… within 30 months” of the settlement’s execution. A parallel suit by environmental groups was not part of the settlement, and so may continue to put pressure on the county.
This suit and its resolution reflect the complexities of law structured around fixed levels of governance attempting to address a problem like climate change. Localities are often at the front-end of forwarding more progressive climate policy, such as in their joining international coalitions of cities, developing greenhouse gas emissions plans, and pledging to meet Kyoto standards. But this dispute serves as an important reminder that localities also are important sites in the dialogue about whether economic development and emissions reductions can be reconciled. For example, Warming Law Blog has reported on the massive political tensions surrounding this suit. As our carbon economy faces up to the crisis of climate change, these kinds of conversations will only become more critical.