California Unveils Plan for Cutting Carbon

smoker88.jpegThe California Air Resource Board (CARB) on Thursday unveiled its proposal for how to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
The much-anticipated plan (PDF) is the latest step toward implementing California’s landmark “Global Warming Solutions Act” (also know by its legislative number, AB 32), passed in 2006. The bill includes mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – or 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents; a subsequent executive order extended that mandate to a whopping 80 percent by 2050.
As Alexis Madrigal reports at WIRED Science, “The scoping plan shows that California needs to cut 169 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the 2020 business-as-usual scenario. That’s more than twice Massachusetts’ total CO2 emissions from 1990.”

Businesses have been waiting with bated breath to see the state’s proposal. The California Chamber of Commerce and other business associations have expressed reservations about the bill’s impact on the cost of doing business in the state, already the highest of all 50 states, according to Forbes magazine’s “Best Places to Do Business” rankings.
However, the proposed plan includes a number of strategies that could represent significant market opportunities for the region:
· A cap-and-trade scheme for carbon that would focus first on heavy users but eventually trickle down to consumer household use of natural gas and electricity. In addition to the first-mover advantages for businesses and utilities that have taken a lead in this area, California consulting firms could see a spike in business from clients seeking guidance around global warming.
· Transportation sector: The state continues to push it’s aggressive fuel-efficiency standards and “low carbon” fuel standard, but also adds aerodynamic design improvements for trucks, increased public transportation and other measures to the list.

Energy: Efficiency plays the biggest role in the state’s plan, but renewables are a key element. Unsurprisingly, CARB hopes to get the biggest bang for its buck out of the state’s already-underway full-court press on solar, as well as more stringent building and appliance standards, and a 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard for all utilities.
· While not every sector is an obvious carbon emitter, the plan also looks at additional greenhouse gas emissions from other industries: Landfill gas capture, increased recycling and composting, forest protection for carbon sequestration, and digesters for agricultural operations are all name in the state’s presentation.
CARB must approve its plan – including all the financial details of how to fund, support and enforce the recommendations – by January 2009. Comments will be accepted until Aug. 1, 2008, and the board plans to put a final proposal to a vote in November.

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