Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Straight Outta Sacramento: AB 32

I just read the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a.k.a. AB (Assembly Bill) 32. The bill requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (the emissions that cause global warming) to 1990 levels by 2020.

The bill works by instructing the California Air Resources Board (Board) to come up with regulations to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state. How exactly this will be done is up to the Board (although there is a strong hint that a cap and trade or "system of market-based declining annual aggregate emission limits" system should be part of it). The penalties for violating the regulations are buried in other parts of the California Health and Safety Code (mostly fines).

A significant loophole is that the Governor can decide to extend the 2020 deadline if he/she decides that the economy would be damaged by sticking to the deadline.

My critique: the law is long on goals and short on specific strategies for implementation. It leaves a lot up to the Board, and the ability of the governor to extend deadlines forever is a big flaw.

Still, it's pretty remarkable for a state to try and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions comprehensively. The bill recognizes that national and international action is necessary to get the problem under control, but also that California can inspire others to act and get ahead of the game in terms of efficiency and technology by showing some leadership.

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