By Randolph C. Visser

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to prepare a Scoping Plan to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California.  The AB 32  Draft Scoping Plan contains the main strategies California will use to reduce the GHGs that cause climate change.  On June 26, 2008 the ARB presented the initial Draft Scoping Plan to the ARB Board for review.

California is the fifteenth largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, representing about two percent of the worldwide emissions. Although carbon dioxide is the largest contributor to climate change, AB 32 references six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Many other gases that contribute to climate change are also being addressed in the Draft Scoping Plan.

The Draft Scoping Plan focuses on reducing California’s contributions to global warming. It calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.  This requires cutting approximately 30 percent from business-as-usual emission levels projected for 2020, or about 10 percent from today’s levels.  On a per-capita basis, that means reducing annual emissions of carbon dioxide from 14 tons for every man, woman and child in California today, down to about 10 tons per person by 2020.

The preliminary recommendation includes a mix of strategies that combine market mechanisms, regulations, voluntary measures, fees, and other policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Key elements of ARB’s preliminary recommendation for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 include:

  • Expansion and strengthening of existing energy efficiency programs and building and appliance standards;
  • Expansion of the Renewables Portfolio Standard (a policy intended to ensure that the benefits of wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy continue to be recognized as electricity markets become more competitive) for both investor-owned and publicly-owned utilities to provide 33% of California’s electricity using renewable sources;
  • Development of a California cap-and-trade program that links with other Western Climate Initiative Partner programs to create a regional market system;
  • Implementation of existing State laws and policies, including California’s clean car standards, goods movement measures, and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and
  • Targeted fees to fund the State’s long-term commitment to AB 32 administration.

The ARB is accepting public comment on the Plan and will make revisions based on continuing analysis and public input. If you would like to submit comments on the Draft Scoping Plan, please click here. The revised version of the Scoping Plan will be released in early October and will have a 45‑day comment period before the Board considers adoption at its November meeting. The measures in the Scoping Plan adopted by the Board will be developed over the next three years and be in place by 2012.

The Draft Scoping Plan is a work in progress, as it lacks many, if not most, of the details required to fully evaluate its impacts on industry.  Interested parties should closely monitor developments and make their views and concerns known to the ARB.

For more information please contact Randy Visser.  Randolph C. Visser is a partner in the Construction, Environmental, Real Estate and Land Use Litigation practice group in the firm’s Los Angeles office. Mr. Visser has over three decades of air quality experience and founded and co-chairs the Firm’s Global Climate Change Team.