SAN FRANCISCO — Statement by Wilderness Society Campaign Coordinator Stanley Van Velsor on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) release of their final AB 32 Scoping Plan to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions:
“The Wilderness Society applauds California’s efforts to move toward a more secure economic future by leading the way in promoting new growth and jobs through the use of limitless, clean energy that reduces, and does not exacerbate, the overheating of the planet from global warming. The health of our communities and the viability of our natural resources depend on this important path-breaking initiative.
“Most importantly, we support the California Air Resources Board’s goal of requiring polluters to purchase 100 percent of their carbon allowances through auction within a cap-and-trade program. However, we are disappointed that the plan does not establish a clear timeline for achieving this goal. Auctioning the allowances, instead of giving them to polluters for free, encourages innovation and prevents a windfall for polluters that has tainted other cap-and-trade proposals. It also provides the mechanism for funding land and wildlife protection strategies needed for natural ecosystems to adjust to the unavoidable impacts of global warming. Without auctions, industry will have the resources to prepare for the changes caused by global warming but the public, and our public lands, will not. We urge the Air Resources Board to ensure that nearly all allowances will be auctioned.
“We also commend the Air Resources Board for recognizing the important role that forests play in the carbon balance both as a significant source of emissions, and with proper management, a place to store potentially huge amounts of carbon. The ability of our forested lands to remove excess heat-trapping gases from our atmosphere remains a little-understood but increasingly critical component of any strategy to curb global warming. Recognizing the large amount of carbon that forests can contribute through wise management highlights the urgent need to prevent deforestation. Old-growth forests, for example, store significant quantities of carbon, sequestering up to three times the carbon of forests harvested and replanted.
“The Air Resources Board also deserves praise for striving to maintain the current level of stored carbon by preventing the loss of California’s forestland into the future. However, we share the concern of many observers that the carbon storage target for forested land under the AB 32 plan is too modest. California’s forestlands have the biological capacity to store significantly more carbon than the current level and could provide greater emissions reductions if the forest sector target included more that just maintaining the current forest carbon stores. We are also concerned that too much reliance is being placed on the use of forest offsets rather than simply managing forests for their carbon storage potential. Forest offsets carry with them a high level of uncertainty because forests are variable across the landscape, contain so much of their carbon in hard-to-measure forms, and will respond in unpredictable ways to climate changes.
“Lastly, we are concerned that the plan does not adequately address forest ecosystem adaptation. If we hope to maintain healthy forest ecosystems that continue to provide carbon sequestration benefits and not become a source of carbon emissions, CARB should work to improve the adaptation capacity of natural systems in the face of global warming.”