Environmental Law

California Once Again Leads Subnational Climate Change Agenda

Yesterday, California Governor Brown took another step down the road of long-term climate change regulation. Along with 11 other signatories, he signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with leaders from other international states and provinces. This action can be seen as an opening salvo by “subnational” leaders and a prelude to where they would like to see the U.N. talks in Paris later this year trend—to local action and commitments. Each entity committed to either reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050.

Thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Executive Order S-3-05, California already had a stated GHG reduction goal of 80% below 1990 state GHG emission levels. In a similar decree, Governor Brown last month issued Executive Order B-30-15 establishing interim milestones to achieve on the way to the 2050 goal. The interim reductions are pegged to 40% reduction from 1990 levels by 2030.

This agreement comes as California’s landmark climate change mitigation law AB 32 is two-thirds into its life span. Depending on your perspective, it is either winding down or ramping up to the 2020 goal, which is now only 4 1/2 years away. Currently, there are several bills pending in the California Legislature that would extend the GHG reduction mandate past 2020.

The 12 founding signatories to the agreement include seven countries, in both advanced and developing economies, on three continents. In his press release, Governor Brown hinted that others were interested and may sign on soon. Along with California, the following jurisdictions signed the “Under 2 MOU”:

  • Acre, Brazil
  • Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • Baja California, Mexico
  • Catalonia, Spain
  • Jalisco, Mexico
  • Ontario, Canada
  • British Columbia, Canada
  • Oregon, USA
  • Vermont, USA
  • Washington, USA
  • Wales, UK

The targets within today’s agreement allow each individual government to tailor emission reduction plans to fit the individual regional needs. But it also seeks to enhance cooperation in achieving the goals through a range of activities, including:

  • Developing midterm targets needed to support long-term reduction goals;
  • Sharing technology, scientific research and best practices to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy;
  • Collaborating to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles;
  • Taking steps to ensure consistent monitoring and reporting of GHG emissions;
  • Improving air quality by reducing short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane; and
  • Assessing the projected impacts of climate change on communities.

The California Air Resources Board has already committed to revising the foundational policy road map—the AB 32 Scoping Plan—in 2016. It is anticipated that the Cap and Trade regulation will be reopened to address post-2020 targets in the 2017-18 time frame.



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

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