California is one step closer to implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, or AB 32, the law that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its proposed scoping plan for how to achieve this goal. CARB president Mary Nichols said more than 40,000 comments were submitted in response to the draft plan released in June, which we wrote about last month. Today’s plan will go before the Board for approval in December.
One of the biggest changes to the scoping plan is that the target for reducing Regional Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2020 was more than doubled from two to five million metric tons. CARB anticipates meeting this goal with a combination of improvements to alternative transportation infrastructure (such as public transit and biking lanes), building sustainable developments, and reducing vehicle trips through incentives and education strategies.
Another change is the addition of a goal for local governments, which was not articulated in the previous version of the plan. CARB is recommending local governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent below today’s levels by 2020.
A big component of the scoping plan is a cap and trade program that covers 85 percent of the state’s emissions. The plan is being developed in conjuction with the Western Climate Initiative, which includes seven states and four Canadians provinces that have agreed to work together to cap emissions and create a regional carbon market. In September, we wrote about the carbon trading market set up by ten eastern states, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Questions still remain about how California’s carbon credits will be divided up and whether they will be handed out, auctioned off, or, more likely, a combination of the two. WCI has left this decision up the individual states with a recommendation of a minimum auction for 10 percent at the outset of the program increasing to at least 25 percent by 2020, and perhaps higher in the future. Nichols said today that California is considering auctioning 20 percent. Of course, for many environmentalists, the closer to a 100 percent auction, the better.
For more information and analysis on the plan, listen to our own Craig Miller, Senior Editor of Climate Watch, on KQED Radio talking with host Sarah Varney. Listen to Miller’s report on AB 32 that aired on the October 16 edition of the The California Report.