Air Board Seeks Major CO2 Cutback

By Published On: May 22, 2014

The California Air Resources Board is eyeing greenhouse gas emission reductions of 40 percent by 2030 and 60 percent below 1990 levels in 2040 in its “master” climate protection plan update adopted unanimously. “This is a major milestone,” said Mary Nichols, Air Board chair, after the May 22 vote. The agency’s latest state greenhouse reduction scoping plan places a greater emphasis on curbing potent short-lived carbon-based pollutants, including black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons. But, it does not commit to specific reductions after 2020. “Reducing their emissions can offer significant improvements in air quality and public health,” it notes. Representatives from clean air and environmental justice communities welcomed the focus on tackling the rise of climate-damaging carbon pollutants that are shorter-lived than carbon dioxide. “Your approach is science-based and looks towards action,” said Bill Magavern, Coalition for Clean Air policy director. The agency’s updated carbon reduction roadmap calls for transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and excluding offset credits in the carbon cap-and-trade program. Further, it links California’s current drought to climate change and puts greater emphasis on water use efficiency to also save energy and reduce emissions. It commits to better assessing and protecting polluted low-income communities from climate changes. While touting the importance of establishing greenhouse gas limits in 2030 and 2040 to reach an 80 percent reduction in 2050, the plan defers committing to specific emission reduction targets after 2020. After pointing to its advisory committee’s recommended reductions of 40 percent and 60 percent in those years, it states only that “emissions from 2020 to 2050 will have to decline at more than twice the rate of that which is needed to reach the 2020 statewide emissions limit.” “Setting mid-term targets is very important,” noted Air Board member Alex Sherriffs before the vote. “They should be very aggressive,” Pending legislation directs the Air Board to set reduction targets by Jan. 1, 2016. The 2030 targets, as directed in SB 1125 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), are to be based on the best available science and be quantitative. Some business organizations and oil producers continued to object to the scoping plan, largely because of the lack of an accompanying economic analysis. “An analysis should be part of the update—not an adjunct to it,” said Western States Petroleum Association senior advisor Michael Wang. Air Board staff expects to launch a full-blown economic analysis at the end of this year, which is to accompany the 2018 plan update. The update predicts California shall reach its 2020 of reducing carbon emissions back down to 1990 levels. That would mark a 15 percent reduction from the level in 2006, the year the state’s climate change law was enacted. The anticipated success is attributed to the state’s 33 percent renewable energy standard, tightened building and appliance efficiency standards, new buildings striving to be net zero energy, less-polluting car standards and low-carbon fuels. At the same time, the Air Board insists that more emissions cuts must be reaped from the energy sector to reach a low-carbon economy. California cannot achieve greenhouse gas emissions cuts within the energy sector “by simply continuing or modestly expanding upon current energy conservation, efficiency, and generation decarbonizing program efforts,” states the plan. It calls for more localized generation and smart grid technologies. “This includes advanced energy technologies and distributed generation, as well as regional grid management to allow for pooling of diverse resources.” Recommendations in this week’s update to reap future emission reductions also include: • Improving the California Energy Commission’s interconnection rules for distributed generation; • Enhancing demand-response; • Ensuring that energy inefficient homes and commercial buildings are retrofitted; • Improving water efficiency and conservation; and • Advancing land use management to correct global warming, including sequestering carbon in wetlands. The plan, which is to be updated every five years, reflects the Air Board’s 2012 statewide emissions inventory. A draft of the plan was released in February and the final version released May 15 for public comment.

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