Golden State taking aim at greenhouse gas emissions

The goal of the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act for 2006 in California – otherwise known as California Assembly Bill 32 – is, by 2020, to reduce in-state greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels and, in addition through an Executive Order, to a level 80 percent below that by 2050.

Smart Growth, Emeryville, Calif., style

On top of this, in 2008, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act passed (known in the Golden State as Senate Bill 375), which calls for sustainable community planning in 18 metro regions throughout the state. As far as I am aware, only four metro regions – San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area – currently have approved plans.

There really is no mystery as to the intent of these measures. In “Conferees fail to reach consensus at San Joaquin Valley Clean Air Workshop,” I wrote: “For what it’s worth, emissions-reductions targets called for in the Sustainable Communities Strategies plan for the entire eight-county San Joaquin Valley region stretching some 250-plus miles from north to south, have been set at five percent and 10 percent (relative to baseline year 2005) for years 2020 and 2035, respectively, according to one source I spoke with.

“For an area that is known for its notoriously bad air, I am of the belief the Valley should have one of the most aggressive campaigns to fight air pollution, but instead, has one of the tamest by comparison.”

That last statement may be neither here nor there as far as AB 32 and SB 375 are concerned. The main focus for those measures is greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction not lowering levels of pollution in the air per se.

SB 375 being about sustainable communities planning and implementation as a means to lower state greenhouse gases is laudable. However, if program implementation becomes watered down, or it loses its oomph, in other words, then plainly and simply, emissions-reduction targets will not be met. Meeting the greenhouse-gas-emissions targets is contingent upon getting this implementation deal correct.

On a related note, I learned about an effort known as “Valley Visions.”

“People. Choices. Communities.” This appears to be the central theme. (For a related video presentation, go here).

I find most interesting – and a little odd, perhaps – that given Valleywide GHG-emissions-reduction goals of five percent by 2020 and 10 percent by 2035, both relative to baseline year 2005, according to what I understand, expressed language on the “Valley Visions” Web site home page would seem to indicate all eight San Joaquin Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) are developing plans exclusive to their jurisdictions independent of each other. However, from what I understand (based on what I read), “some aspects” of region planning activities are to be coordinated.

Smart growth, Denver, Colo. style
Smart growth, Denver, Colo. style

Providing oversight is the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) to see to it that specified SB 375 targets for all 18 metro regions are met.

The bottom line I believe is that since the transportation sector is responsible for producing 38 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California – better than one third, to be successful at scaling back those emissions to sought-after and agreed-upon levels will require implementation of truly effective approaches only. On the other hand, employing sub-par or sub-standard strategies may result in GHG-reductions targets not being met.

I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.

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