Article Features Linda Adams

Climate Change: California Leads the Fight Against Global Warming

Linda Adams is the State of California’s secretary for environmental protection.

California has a long history of environmental leadership. When Gov. Schwarzenegger asked me to head the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), he told me, “I want clean air, clean water and no excuses.”

One of my first assignments was to serve as his lead negotiator on AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which is California’s greenhouse gas reduction bill. The governor was very clear from the beginning that he wanted legislation with bold goals and a clear path to success. These goals were aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets — 1990 levels by 2020 — which he announced in San Francisco during World Environment Day 2005.

Many people aren’t aware that California is already engaged in various reduction programs. These include investing in energy efficiency technologies, accelerating the development of renewable power, ordering the expansion of alternative fuels and investing in a green fleet and green buildings.

International Efforts Welcome California Action

In April 2007, I traveled with the governor and former Assembly Member Fran Pavley to Washington, D.C., where we met with the administrator of the U.S. EPA. We asked him to move forward on granting us a waiver to enforce the state’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas standards, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars by 18 percent and remove six tons of smog-forming emissions annually by 2020.

The U.S. EPA has been sitting on our waiver request for almost two years now, saying it doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. However, the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees and re cently issued a decision that the U.S. EPA does indeed have the authority.

In addition to continuing to fight to protect our right in California to clean the air, a small group of officials recently returned from Europe, where we met with our counterparts to learn about environmental policies that are helping them meet their Kyoto Protocol targets. Throughout the trip we heard overwhelming support for California’s efforts to join the global fight against climate change.

In fall 2006, I participated in the United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi, where I met with many international leaders. They expressed strong support for California’s work to reduce carbon emissions and tremendous hope that the rest of the United States will soon join this global effort.

Promoting a Long-Term Agenda

We have an immense responsibility to protect the environment for future generations. To meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets, we must promote a long-term agenda that focuses on a fu ture with low-carbon fuel, better land use management and a more efficient system to move goods.

If we do nothing, temperatures could rise up to 10 degrees by the end of the century, impacting water supplies, harming our world-class agriculture industry and increasing heat-related deaths.

Global warming won’t just impact our environment; it could devastate our economy through costly floods, crop losses, disease and reduced tourism.

The state has been working for years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. From improving energy efficiency to reducing tailpipe emissions, California continues to lead the nation with innovative ideas to improve our environment and strengthen our economy.

As the 12th largest emitter of green house gases and an environmental leader, California has an opportunity to set the pace for action. Every one of us can be part of the solution by conserving energy, buying energy efficient products and appliances, recycling and driving cleaner cars. Our combined efforts can reduce greenhouse gases and slow global warming.

Implementing AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act

In September 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), establishing green house gas emissions targets as state law.

AB 32 codifies the goals to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to year 2000 levels by 2010, and authorizes the state Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop regulations and market-based compliance mechanisms to meet the state’s emissions targets.

The ARB is also responsible for monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is charged with:

  • Adopting a list of discrete, early action measures by July 1, 2007, that can be implemented before Jan. 1, 2010;
  • Establishing a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020 based on 1990 emissions by Jan. 1, 2008;
  • Adopting mandatory reporting rules for significant sources of greenhouse gases by Jan. 1, 2008;
  • Adopting a plan by Jan. 1, 2009, that indicates how emission reductions will be achieved from significant greenhouse gas sources via regulations, market mechanisms and other actions;
  • Adopting regulations by Jan . 1, 2011, to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, including provisions for using both market mechanisms and alternative compliance mechanisms;
  • Convening an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and an Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee to help guide the ARB; and
  • Ensuring public notice and opportunity for comment for all ARB actions.

Prior to imposing any mandates or authorizing market mechanisms, AB 32 requires the ARB to evaluate several factors, including but not limited to: impacts on Cali fornia’s economy, the environment and public health; equity between regulated entities; electricity reliability; and confor mance with other environmental laws. AB 32 also requires the ARB to ensure that the rules do not disproportionately affect low-income communities.

Links to Climate Change Resources

The links below are suggested starting points for information about climate change and what cities can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Institute for Local Government (ILG), California Climate Action Network. This is a new program of ILG, which is the nonprofit research arm of the League and the California State Association of Counties (see page 9 for more information). 

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)The IPCC assesses scientific, technical and socioeconomic information related to climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. Its February 2007 report lays out the most current and extensive assessment of the scientific understanding of climate change. 

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. This site provides a five-step process for local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve livability within their communities. 

U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Program. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is committed to substantially reducing cities’ contributions to climate pollution with actions that make environmental and economic sense.

Cool Mayors for Climate Protection. Provides information and resources for local officials nationwide who want to address the challenge of climate change. 

State of California’s Climate Change Portal. Links to state agencies and many other resources related to the state’s climate change activities. 

California Climate Action Registry. A nonprofit voluntary registry to help companies and organizations with operations in California establish greenhouse gas emissions baselines against which any future greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements may be applied. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change Home Page
Links to a multitude of resources from the federal government and beyond. 

Sonoma County ’s Climate Protection Campaign. This is a joint program of the county and cities in Sonoma County.

This article appears in the July 2007 issue of Western City
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