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Report: California Air Resources Board plan falls short in addressing California’s climate goals

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(The Center Square) - The California Air Resources Board (CARB) which is responsible for developing plans to meet established statutory greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals, came under fire in a recent brief by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) assessing California’s climate policies.

The LAO criticized CARB plan for lacking a clear strategy to achieve targets in greenhouse gas reduction set out by the state. Additionally, LAO found that the cap‑and‑trade program is not currently positioned to close a 2030 emissions gap. 

In 1990, California’s emissions measured 431 metric tons of climate pollutants. The state’s statutory goals required a reduction of GHG to no more than 258.6 metric tons by the year 2030 and to 64.65 metric tons by 2045. 

“The plan is unclear regarding how much the state will rely on financial incentives, sector‑specific regulatory programs, or cap‑and‑trade,” the LAO brief stated. The state statute required that the plan “identify and make recommendations on measures to facilitate the achievement of the maximum technologically feasible and cost‑effective reductions of GHGs.” The plan should have identified the cost-effectiveness and range of projected greenhouse gas and air pollution reductions from each measure.

The failure to set out specific policy increases the risk that the state will not meet its 2030 climate change goal due to delays in action. As state departments take the time to identify and evaluate what policy changes to make, implementation is delayed.

The delay in implementation means the time period is shortened and a more rushed policy roll-out could be disruptive and expensive for households and private businesses.

The brief found that the plan lacked information that the legislature would need to evaluate the pros and cons of policy, make a near-term budget, analyze the impact on different households and make comparisons to alternative emission reduction measures.

If the state fails to meet its emission goals, California may miss the opportunity to demonstrate global leadership on climate action, the LAO found.

Seventy-five percent of the state’s greenhouse emissions come from transportation fuels, electricity, natural gas, and industrial activities that fall under the cap-and -trade program, to limit their impact. The CARB plan did not include a specific role for cap-and-trade. 

The LAO recommended that CARB submit a report to the legislature by July 31, 2023 to include new and expanded policies. The report should have estimated emission reductions, air pollution reductions, distributional impacts, and cost‑effectiveness of each of those policies, as well as mechanisms to make cap-and-trade more effective by reducing emission allowances, limiting the use of offsets and extending the program beyond 2030.