California Must Change the Way Land Use and Transportation Decisions are Made to Reduce Greenhouse Gases that Cause Global Warming and Implement AB 324 min read

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The passage of AB 32 in September of 2006 established a firm commitment on the part of California to dramatically reduce global warming pollution in the state and thereby set an example for the nation on how to tackle climate change. We can achieve the steep reductions in global warming pollution called for by AB 32, but it won’t be a small or easy task. Being the first state to enforce an economy-wide cap on global warming pollution is a major undertaking, and all California residents and businesses have a role to play. Ultimately, we will revolutionize energy production and use in the Golden State and create a cleaner, safer place to live for ourselves and future generations.

Dropping global warming pollution to 1990 levels in the next 12 years means cutting emissions by 169 million metric tons, nearly 30 percent. That’s a major reduction in a short time frame, an amount equal to taking 28 million cars off the road in the next 12 years. And as Chuck Shulock, the Assistant Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) pointed out at its first AB 32 public input workshop this week, the 2020 targets are really just a “weigh stop” on the road to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by mid century as called for in Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2007 executive order. This 2050 target also represents the amount of reductions that scientists tell us are needed to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming.

Hundreds of Californians turned out at the first public meeting to discuss the recently released draft scoping plan and advise CARB on ways to implement and strengthen AB 32. School teachers, labor unions, environmentalists and green tech entrepreneurs all agreed that something had to be done to reduce global warming. The LA Department of Water and Power expressed enthusiasm for using renewable energy and owning those new green assets close to home, thereby creating new, clean tech jobs. Electricians expressed a desire to see new green jobs in Southern California while school teachers and administrators expressed a desire to educate today’s youth in clean, safe schools accessed by improved public transportation. Even a couple Hollywood celebrities attended the public workshop to show their concern for reducing global warming pollution and protecting future generations.

The good news is that the draft scoping plan for AB 32 includes a robust, innovative combination of market-based mechanisms and traditional regulatory policies. This mix of measures will engage stakeholders in all areas of the economy to generate action needed to combat global warming, and Environmental Defense Fund applauds this approach to taking dramatic action. Developing a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases in California and the Western region will be a pillar that enables California to achieve rapid cost-effective reductions from multiple areas of the economy. Implementing California’s landmark Clean Cars laws, low carbon fuel standard, regional reduction targets, and heavy-duty efficiency programs will dramatically change the emissions of California’s largest pollution source, the transportation sector. Further, increasing the requirement for renewable power generation will inspire innovation and bring about a new cooperative effort among California’s elite regulatory agencies.

Despite these positive features, we do not view the draft as a complete scoping plan, and we look forward to working with CARB and other stakeholders to expand the recommendations to capture the most vital, cost-effective emissions reductions. Specifically, the draft plan will need to further develop recommendations on changing the way land use and transportation decisions are made if California is to cut our emissions 30% by 2020 and put us in a position to accomplish our even more aggressive mid-century goals. For example, the scoping plan should be modified to hold regional and local governments accountable to their reduction targets; infrastructure funding should be required to reduce greenhouse gases rather than perpetuating the cycles of sprawl and road building; and measures like the indirect source rule that reduce air pollution caused by new development must be implemented. Further, measures that hold great potential for reducing vehicle use and ensuring diversity and reliability in mass transit deserve in-depth analysis, recognition of their proven benefits, and development into required measures rather than as measures to be studied.

Environmental Defense Fund views all of the strategies present in the scoping plan, including some not yet in the plan, as integral to the state’s success in meeting AB 32 reduction goals. We look forward to working with CARB to create a complete package of measures to reduce emissions from all areas of the economy and give the rest of the nation and the world a model to follow. Also, we are actively encouraging all Californians to engage in this process because we need a robust and collaborative effort from everyone in order to meet the goals of AB 32 to dramatically reduce global warming pollution, improve public health, reduce catastrophic wildfires and protect our drinking water supply. The eyes of the world are focused on California – we cannot delay or compromise implementation of our groundbreaking plan to fight global warming.

Timothy O’Connor is an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, a cosponsor of AB 32.

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