California Leads a Victory in Cutting Greenhouse Gases

Working with a coalition of over 50 environmental and public health groups, The Wilderness Society has scored a victory in the fight to cut greenhouse gases.

In early December, the state of California approved the nation’s most sweeping plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a plan that The Wilderness Society has been involved in developing over the past 2 years.

On Dec. 11, a board that governs air pollution regulations for the sate of California Air Resources Board (CARB), unanimously approved a plan that will cut dangerous emissions from California by 15 percent from today’s level.

This emissions reduction plan aims to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of roughly 4 metric tons for every California resident by 2020. In total, it would reduce emissions by more than 170 million tons, down to 1990 levels

Implementation of the plan will help create a clean energy economy, spurring innovation, job creation and economic growth. In fact, an economic analysis completed by the board shows that the plan would create more than 100,000 jobs and result in a $27 billion increase in economic production by 2020. That’s an increase in overall personal income of $14 billion,.

The plan includes recommendations for developing California’s future cap-and-trade program, which would cover 85 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emitting sources, including electricity generation, large industrial sources, and residential and commercial use of natural gas.

The Wilderness Society has participated in early discussions on development of recommendations for governing carbon allowances and offsets, and we plan to play an active role in the state’s final rule making process as well.

Under the cap-and-trade program the state would set a total allowable amount of emissions that declines over time. Utilities and other large industries would be required to obtain allowances to cover their emissions. The plan recommends transition to a full auction of allowances, with auction revenue going to further the policy objectives of California’s climate change program. Auctions could bring in $1 billion at the outset and up to $340 million per year by 2020.

Under the California plan, industries would also be allowed to buy "offsets" — emission reductions from projects outside the capped sectors — to avoid making their own reductions. Consequently, it is important that there is a limit on the use of offsets to guarantee that cap-and-trade will produce necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Wilderness Society has consistently advocated for significant limits on the use of offsets in a cap-and-trade program.

We continue to encourage CARB to auction all emission allowances and use revenues from auctions for public benefit rather than industry hand-outs, and we’re leading efforts to ensure a national cap-and-trade program directs auction revenues to protecting our ecosystems and communities from the effects of global warming.

Read our official statement commending the plan here.