When the preliminary plans for California’s cap-and-trade program were first introduced in 2010, it was quickly regarded as a groundbreaking policy due to its stringency, size, and scope. California was the ninth largest economy in the world – it has now jumped to eighth – and the Golden State’s program would soon implement the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas pollution in the country. But, it was not the first cap-and-trade program in the United States. In fact, ten states in the northeast had implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. Like California’s program, the RGGI system places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and sets a corresponding price on carbon, but covering only the electricity sector. Despite the difference in scope and location of these two programs, they are both demonstrating that carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.
A new report released this past Wednesday by the Acadia Center digs into the most recent data out of the RGGI system. According to the Acadia analysis, the RGGI states have decreased their emissions by 35 percent since the start of the program, while emissions from the 40 states unregulated by a cap only decreased by 12 percent over the same period. At the same time as emissions dropped, the RGGI state economies grew by 21 percent as compared to the non-capped states, which only saw an 18 percent growth in their economies. California has similarly been able to grow its economy impressively while implementing an aggressive cap on emissions. During the first year of the program, the Golden State moved from ninth to eight largest economy in the world, grew its GDP faster than the national average, and decreased capped emissions by four percent. Read More
Today, a group of major investors from across the country, who manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets, issued a letter calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Among them are California’s two biggest retirement funds – CalPERS and CalSTERS, which together manage nearly $500 billion in funds on behalf of approximately one and a half million members.
The powerful statement issued by the group of investors calls out the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability, saying that it compelled them to support action on the issue to avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”
California’s Leadership Role
Although the investors’ letter focuses on national rules, the relevance to California cannot be overlooked as the state has, over the past year, taken a leadership position on regulating harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations. For example, California is currently developing new rules at the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and a new statewide plan and regulations are being developed at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production. Read More
Sometimes we need to look back in order to see the road forward. Whenever I reflect on the success of California’s climate policies, I like to hop in my time machine and dial it all the way back to ancient history – circa 2010 – when I was a young staffer in Washington D.C. fresh out of grad school with big policy dreams and an even bigger student debt.
For climate advocates, they were the best of times, which quickly became the worst of times. In 2010 the Senate was considering a federal climate bill to finally reign in the carbon pollution driving climate change, while jump-starting a clean energy economy to help pull us out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Visions of hope and change ran high.
But as history goes, the bill failed. Despite different accounts of how the story went down, all agree those were some dark days for the climate movement.
I was there to see it firsthand, and as dreams of big climate policy started to crumble, many advocates held on to one thought to keep us going: “At least we have California…” Read More
By: Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate Initiative, and Amanda Johnson, Legal Fellow
California is in the midst of multiple regulatory efforts to reduce methane emissions from natural gas and oil operations throughout the state. It’s a key opportunity to make a real dent in the state’s climate impact since methane, the primary component of natural gas, packs over 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released unburned.
Methane emissions in-state and out of state
One of the key efforts going on in the state is the development of new rules by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions from natural gas transmission, distribution, and storage, the systems that deliver gas to homes and businesses. And, at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a new statewide plan to cut short lived climate pollutants from sources across the state is in development, as are new regulations to reduce emissions from oil and natural gas production, processing, and storage in California. Read More
Earlier this year in Oregon, as they did in California several years ago, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), together with American Trucking Alliance (ATA) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), filed a federal lawsuit to try and derail a cutting-edge, scientifically-based, and legally sound clean fuel standard. Not discouraged by their recent losses challenging California’s clean fuels program (the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have proceeded with nearly identical constitutional law arguments – simply recycling issues and claims that were rejected many months ago.
Like the California LCFS, the Oregon Clean Fuels Program reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by requiring fuel sold in state to have reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Compliance is based on the schedule developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection and designed to spur innovation in the fuel sector, as the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard has already done. The fuels program itself does not choose a formula for carbon reduction, but allows the market to find the best path forward.
A significant portion of Oregon’s climate pollution comes from the use of gasoline and diesel in transportation, as it does in many other U.S. states, and it’s high time for Oregonians to have access to cleaner burning, lower carbon alternative fuels. Once in use, these alternatives not only cut climate pollution, they also deliver reduced emissions of multiple air contaminants that damage the health of the public while also improving energy security. In light of these substantial benefits to the people and economy of Oregon, on March 12, 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill passed by the state legislature that removes the sunset date established in the 2009 law, allowing the Oregon Clean Fuels Program to move forward unimpeded. Read More
It may be hard to believe that just 15 years ago the term “clean tech” was largely unheard of. Today, the term has gained widespread usage, and is often applied to a diverse array of businesses, practices, and tools. Clean tech not only includes renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, but also electric motors, green chemistry, sustainable water management, and waste disposal technologies, to name just a few.
One research institution that has followed this sector through its short, but burgeoning history, is Clean Edge, a firm devoted exclusively to the study of the clean tech sector. Last week, the firm released their annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, which ranks each state based on several indicators across three categories: technology, policy, and capital. For the sixth year in a row, California came out on top as the leading state for clean technology. In fact, over the past year, California has widened its lead over the rest of the pack, with a score that is 15 percentage points higher than Massachusetts, the state in second place. According to the report, “with 55,000 people employed in its booming solar industry alone, a carbon market in place with its AB 32 trading scheme, and a 50 percent renewables goal by 2030 set by Governor Jerry Brown, California sets the pace for what a clean-energy economy looks like.” Read More