California air regulator approves 'bold' plan to reach 2030 climate goals
- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) last week approved a "2017 Scoping Plan Update" laying out how the state will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, while also investing in low-income communities and helping to grow jobs.
- The plan, approved unanimously by regulators, paints a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which the agency says will require the state to double the rate at which it has been cutting climate-changing gases.
- By CARB's estimates, the plan could save up to $11 billion dollars in 2030 in avoided environmental damage from carbon pollution. For comparison, the agency noted that the costs of California’s 2017 wildfire season now exceed $10 billion.
CARB Chair Mary Nichols called the scoping update "a bold plan" to meet the threat of climate change, save lives and improve health, while also growing the state's economy.
The plan "builds on proven actions and presents a template for other jurisdictions who are also committed to preventing the worst impacts of a warming planet.” Nichols said in a statement.
CARB also said that programs detailed in the plan will improve public health while reducing costs associated with healthcare and natural disasters, including a projected reduction in premature deaths of 3,300 by 2030. Regulators say the financial benefit from reduced sick days and hospital stays will be more than $1.2 billion in 2030.
The plan says work is already underway to implement new community-focused air quality programs, including monitoring and emission reduction plans. But it acknowledges the "need to continue to evaluate and incorporate additional opportunities to reduce GHGs, criteria, and air toxics emissions as they become cost-effective and technologically feasible."
The plan also stresses that implementation should not disproportionally impact lower-income residents.
CARB's plan launches programs to incentivize the sale of millions of zero-emission vehicles, drive the deployment of zero-emission trucks and develop a cleaner system of statewide freight shipping. On the renewable energy front, CARB said the state's electric utilities are ahead of schedule in reaching 33% renewable power by 2020. The scoping plan "guides" utilities to reaching 50% renewable power by 2030, as required by state law.
In addition, the state's renewed cap-and-trade program extends to 2030 the declining cap on emissions from utilities and industries and the related carbon allowance auctions.
Next steps in the overall scoping plan include developing and implementing the individual measures, convening interagency workgroups and continuing the process of integrating public health analyses in program development processes.
California's 2030 GHG reduction target is "a milestone on the way to achieve greater reductions needed to stave off the catastrophic impacts of climate change," the plan notes.
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