One of the great features of California’s cap-and-trade program is that all the money that the state raises by selling carbon allowances to polluters is supposed to be plowed back into initiatives that help cool the climate. So not only does the program limit and reduce carbon emissions; it also forces polluters to pay to undo some of the harm that they cause.

But with such a big stack of green sitting there, staring the notoriously cash-poor state of California in its desperate face, how can a government resist?

And so it’s starting to look as though $500 million raised by selling carbon allowances could be funneled away from green programs and loaned instead to the state’s general fund. The L.A. Times reports:

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Gov. Jerry Brown sparked controversy Tuesday when he proposed to shift $500 million out of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and loan it to the state general fund as part of the effort to balance the budget. …

Lending that money would be “extraordinarily disappointing,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “The governor will be delaying opportunities to use those funds to actually get critical reductions in global warming pollution,” she said.

If the state delays using the funds for reforestation and energy efficiency projects, that will delay the positive environmental effects of those efforts, she added.

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Taking money away from global warming projects is so … uncool.

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