First Scoping Plan Update Lays Groundwork for a Low-Carbon Future

Erica Morehouse photoThe Proposed First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan (Proposed Update), released today by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is a more focused and ambitious version of the document first released last fall that is part of a larger California climate strategy. Importantly, the Proposed Update continues to build a framework for significant post-2020 carbon pollution reductions needed for the state.

California is on the cutting edge of climate action but is not alone on the international stage when it comes to planning for the future. On January 22nd, the European Commission released a climate and energy plan proposing the EU reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.  Last November, Mexico announced plans for a carbon tax that will include offsets.  And last summer, President Obama released a Climate Action Plan that builds on much of California's success especially in the areas of reducing emissions from cars and trucks and controlling emissions from new and existing power plants.

CARB’s Proposed First Scoping Plan Update:

Recommends smart 2030 targets

This Proposed Update recognizes that not only do we need to dramatically reduce carbon pollution in the first half of the 21st century, but with commitment and planning it is an attainable goal. Achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050 will mean California must slash emissions across the board and CARB is recommending that every sector explored – transportation, energy, waste, water, agriculture, and natural and working lands – should have a sector-specific target.  It's appropriate that California first focused on big emitting sectors like energy and transportation, but sectors like agriculture and working lands which are harder to regulate can't be ignored as we consider long-term reduction goals. These sector targets will serve as guides for cutting pollution, driving innovation, and spurring investment in California.

Positions California as an international leader and collaborator

The Proposed Update recognizes that in order to remain at the forefront of international leadership, California must continue to lead by planning for reductions after 2020 and by continuing collaborations with other states, provinces, and countries that are taking action on climate change.

The Proposed Update identifies international sectoral offsets, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), as a potential key opportunity for California to help curb deforestation, the cause of roughly 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while efficiently meeting the state’s domestic emission reduction targets.  The state’s engagement on REDD, along with the ongoing collaborations with China, Mexico, and other U.S. states, is a building block of meaningful global climate leadership

Provides economic opportunity

The Proposed Update articulates how economic opportunity goes hand in hand with innovative environmental solutions. California has enjoyed a strong economic recovery during the first year of cap and trade, but the state isn’t turning a blind eye to the challenges that lie ahead. California needs significant innovation before we can reach our target of 80% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050. CARB’s plan will encourage new economic opportunities and ways to cost-effectively reduce carbon pollution such as: carbon capture and sequestration, expanding the electrification of our personal car fleet, and developing reliable electricity storage. We can expect to see growth in low-carbon sectors, new clean energy jobs, and auction proceeds investments that will further strengthen local communities and businesses.

Prioritizes emission reductions in uncapped sectors 

This plan brings needed attention to emission reductions in sectors not regulated by cap and trade such as agriculture, working lands, water, and waste, and recommends setting sector-specific targets. CARB identifies pragmatic policies for these uncapped sectors such as incentivizing the efficient use of fertilizers and reuse of organic materials. CARB should continue to promote these opportunities, and recognize that pragmatic working and natural lands policies will also provide co-benefits such as more efficient water use.

As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” CARB’s Proposed Update not only lays the groundwork for a low-carbon and clean-energy future, but points us towards strategic, and quantifiable, short and long-term goals – potential opportunities that will spark a much-needed conversation about what is possible as we approach 2030 and beyond.

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