The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2007
California's global warming law - now the hard work begins
In 2006 California enacted landmark legislation to cap our state's emissions of global-warming pollution - the first such law in the United States. The Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and then-Assemblymember Fran Pavley, has garnered justifiable praise around the country and even overseas as a demonstration of California's willingness to fill the leadership vacuum left by the Bush administration on global warming.
Now the hard work begins - the long and difficult process of implementing policies to bring California's greenhouse gas emissions down to their 1990 level by 2020. The legislature has set this goal, and has wisely assigned the state's Air Resources Board to make it happen. The ARB, the nation's premier guardian of air quality, now takes on the additional challenge of addressing global warming. Industry lobbyists are already flocking to the workshops and seminars on the topic, hoping to shape the eventual rules to benefit their narrow interests.
The ARB's first task, perhaps as early as its April meeting, is to publish a list of "early action measures", regulations that could be put in place before 2010 to start bringing down greenhouse pollution. ARB staff have indicated their inclination to put forward only two such measures: the Low-Carbon Fuels Standard announced by the governor in a January executive order, and restrictions on hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants with their high global-warming potential. The Low-Carbon Fuels Standard will require a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020, stimulating deployment of alternatives to gasoline.
Environmental groups, including Sierra Club California, urge a bolder approach with additional early measures to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, cement factories, landfills, and marine vessels.
The ARB is also determining the "baseline" level of emissions from 1990, and establishing a system for large emitters of greenhouse pollution to report their emissions. Advisory committees have been chartered on environmental justice, markets, and technology.
Key questions remain. How many emission reductions will come from technology standards and incentive programs, and how many from market mechanisms? Will the market mechanisms include a "cap-and-trade" program, as Gov. Schwarzenegger has ordered? If so, will polluters be given permits to emit greenhouse gases, or will they have to buy them? Technology-based standards have a far better record of success than pollution-trading schemes, especially when the right to emit is granted to polluters for free.
This implementation process will be a high priority for Sierra Club California this year and for years to come.
At this last site, in particular, see the fascinating set of fact sheets on "Stopping Our Addiction to Oil", which discuss how we can reduce our use of petroleum products in the transportation sector, moving to cleaner alternative fuels and more efficient vehicles.
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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