California Leads the Way on Climate Policy

Thomas Schueneman

The California Air Resources Board yesterday unanimously approved the "nation's most sweeping plan to reduce global warming".

California climate plan will serve as national model

The plan is a concrete response on how state businesses, government, and citizens will meet the landmark AB32, otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed into law by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. The bill calls for the state, with the world's eighth largest economy, to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - or about 30% from current levels.

The plan adopted yesterday by the Air Resources Board provides a means on how to achieve that goal.

(The plan) provides a road map for the rest of the nation to follow," Schwarzenegger said in a statement, suggesting that the plan will serve as a model for president-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged aggressive action on climate change once he takes office.

The plan calls for 33% of electricity generation from renewable sources, regional transportation emissions targets, and a carbon cap-and-trade system - what many consider the cornerstone of the plan

In all the plan specifies 31 rules, including:

  • Putting 85% of greenhouse gas-emitting industries into a cap-and-trade program
  • Requiring utilities to produce 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources
  • Increase efficiency standards for new and existing buildings
  • Discourage urban sprawl by building housing near transit hubs
  • Lower methane levels in landfills and encourage high levels of recycling and zero trash in landfills

Critics of the plan say the economic costs of the plan are either not well defined or simply too high, especially in the face of the current economy. This assertion is refuted by proponents who see it as an economic boon paving the way for the inevitable green economy, providing thousands of jobs and showing the way out of the current economic morass for the rest of the country.

The Air Resources Board says the growth of green business and clean tech more than compensating for the costs of the program. Its own analysis shows a per-capita income rise of about $200 per year resulting from changes in the economy, and an annual increase of $7 billion in California's gross state product.

And to the skeptics; what will the costs be to the state's economy if we do nothing?

Sources and further reading

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times


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Thomas Schueneman