Weakening of California Global Warming Law

Payal Parekh

Governor Schwarzenegger signing AB 32 into law.
Governor Schwarzenegger signing AB 32 into law.
It is great that California voters overwhelmingly defeated Proposition 23, the initiative that would not let AB32, the global warming law, go into effect unless the state unemployment rate falls below 5.5 percent.  Californians sent a clear message that they support legislation to take on climate change, even though the federal government hasn't managed to pass a comprehensive climate and energy package.

Thus, it makes it even harder to understand why the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the regulatory agency responsible for establishing the rules for the cap and trade program, has decided to recommend a weakening of the rules. Specifically, the allowances should now be given away for free, when originally CARB had recommended that they be auctioned off. The allocations will be based on factors including output from individual facilities, as well as historical emissions data. Experience from the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme shows that taking this pathway results in over-allocation of allowances and little incentive for companies to reduce their emissions.

Additionally, CARB is recommending that facilities are allowed to double the amount of offsets that they can turn in from 4 percent to 8 percent of their emissions. Even if offsets result in real emissions reductions, it still allows California industries to keep polluting. Having monitored the world's largest offsetting program since its inception, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), we know that it has been a flop. Due to the high percentage of rip-offsets, emissions have actually increased under the CDM.

Today CARB has a public meeting to discuss the proposed program. Our partner organizations in California will be attending the meeting to make statements asking for more stringent regulations, especially with regards to forestry offsets (other offset protocols that CARB will consider include ozone depleting substances and livestock manure). Follow the meeting online to hear all the nitty-gritty details.