By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As Gov. Jerry Brown continues his push to save the state’s soon to expire cap-and-trade program, we wanted to know what’s at stake.

Cap-and-trade works by capping carbon emissions in exchange for money from big polluters. So what’s the trade in cap-and-trade?

For an explanation, we headed to a low-income neighborhood in South Sacramento.

Cesaria Godina is so grateful she no longer has to pay for electricity. The elderly Sacramento woman stood out in triple-digit heat, showing how her new solar panels use the sun’s energy to power her home.

“None. For three months we don’t have to pay none,” she said.

The panels were also free, as part of the state’s multi-billion dollar cap-and-trade program aiming to reduce our carbon footprint.

“Those solar electric systems are expected systems are expected to offset 630,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing this clean, renewable energy,” said Becca Russell of Grid Alternatives.

Grid Alternatives, which helped install the panels, is one of 100,000 state projects paid for through cap and trade money.

So how does it work?

The state caps carbon emissions, but lets polluters—big businesses like oil refineries—pay to release greenhouse gases.

So what do we get out of the deal in return?

The California Air Resources Board, which regulates polluters says, cleaner air.

Millions of metric tons of CO2 in the state,” said Phil Serna.

Phil Serna sits on the board. He says his scientists calculate carbon emissions.

According to them, cap and trade programs are credited with reducing 15 metric tons of CO2 since 2014. That’s equivalent to taking over 3 million cars off the road for a year.

But there are a lot of skeptics: many Democrats and environmentalists, who say the policy allows polluters to release toxic gases into the air as long they pay a fee.

“We don’t know all the politics, but we need to not have something that’s going to hurt our kids,” said Carolyn Norr.

Carolyn Norr is a Bay Area Science teacher. She brought one of her students to listen to the Governor’s rare climate change testimony.

“Earth is telling us right now that’s it’s being harmed, there’s a lot of signs, floods, hurricane,” said her science student Angelika Soriano.

That’s one reason why Godina back in South Sacramento- went green. That, and to save some money.

If approved by the Legislature, the state’s signature climate change program will be extended until 2030.

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