Yesterday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began the process of actually meeting that state's landmark emissions-reduction target by specifying what it entails numerically:
The board's decision that 427 million metric tons of greenhouse gas were released over California in 1990 effectively launched a massive scientific and regulatory effort aimed at combating climate change that scientists say is threatening the planet.
California's 2006 landmark global warming law, the first in the nation, requires that, 13 years from now, the state reduce its emissions of planet-heating carbon dioxide and other gases to 1990 levels.
But what were those levels? That's the question that scores of state, federal and industry economists and engineers finally determined after a year of feverish data-mining involving 13,000 separate calculations.
Huge obstacles remain-- various industries seemed to dispute their share of the burden and the restrictions set yesterday on large industrial-plant emissions, concern remains that reporting requirements for business might not be strong enough, and the goal, simply, is incredibly amibitious. And the state's goal rests partly on a clean cars program being fought tooth-and-nail, at the federal regulatory level and in court, by automakers.
Still, this is a historic first step that should help clear up criticisms that those already taking action on the local level (hello, Napa County!) are doing so in an unwieldy vacuum. We're also pleased that CARB has decided to work directly to further influence local governments in that regard, with a particular focus on the promising area of land-use planning:
Beyond its statewide regulatory efforts, the board unveiled an initiative to help cities and counties inventory their greenhouse gas emissions and adopt proven strategies to cut them. The air board has declared that it will look at state regulation of land use, traditionally a local responsibility, in order to meet greenhouse gas targets.
"To get to 2020 is going to require major changes in behavior," said board member Daniel Sperling.