If California were an independent nation, it would be the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). That is a profound thought. The Golden State’s got a plan, though. And what a plan it is, apparently!
The California program – the Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) initiative (an outgrowth of California Senate Bill 375: the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008) – implemented in at least four of 18 cities so far or about to launch (in coming months) in the remaining communities, has been created and adopted to appreciably lower state GHGs.
As a matter of fact, I first reported on Sustainable Communities Strategies on the Air Quality Matters blog in: “Conferees fail to reach consensus at San Joaquin Valley clean air workshop.” That was on Nov. 8, 2012. At that time I explained, “On November 7th, I attended a Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) public workshop for the county of Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
“The purpose of this gathering, attended by a hundred or so people, was to discuss and present ideas about how to shrink the area’s carbon footprint. …”
A few paragraphs later I argued, “In terms of land use and transportation planning and ultimately with regard to emissions reductions as it relates to the region’s future development, what is key is first pinpointing pollution or emissions sources and then implementing measures to reduce or eliminate said pollution outright. …”
This is a pretty good summation of the issue if I do say so myself.
And not to be overlooked is: that the single largest contributor (38 percent by weight) of GHG emissions comes from the transportation sector, around three-quarters of that emitted from cars and trucks, it should be no surprise that transportation is a major focus area.
Making an already strong plan better
As it relates, almost two months ago, Autumn Bernstein on the ClimatePlan blog provided an update.
Regarding Bernstein’s Jan. 27th “update,” during the week prior the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) convened a meeting having to do with this very issue. The main topic of discussion, apparently, was the SCS GHG emissions-reduction targets.
Bernstein observed: “From the Big Four [Metropolitan Planning Organization] ‘brothers’ [Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and San Diego] in their matching blue pinstripe suits, to the Board members on their dais, to us advocates with our three minutes each, everyone had something to say about the targets.”
A couple of paragraphs later in the same document, the ClimatePlan Director went on to point out that the GHG targets ARB assigned in 2010 and those already approved, presumably, were either already met with flying colors as it were or, in fact, were thus far exceeded.
Elaborating further, Bernstein wrote: “The Santa Barbara region, for example, was given a target of zero for 2035. Yes, that’s right, ZERO, as in, please don’t do anything at all for the next 30 years to reduce your emissions, just keep ‘em where they are. To Santa Barbara’s enduring credit, they adopted a plan that would reduce emissions by a whopping 15.4%. Many other regions, big and small, from the Bay Area and Southern California to Butte County and Tahoe, are exceeding one or both of their targets.”
The “one or both” in the above sentence, I take to mean for target years 2020 and/or 2035.
All’s well that ends well?
Whoa! Not so fast. In commenting further, Bernstein admonished: “Having a great plan is well, great, but if those plans just sit on the shelf gathering dust, only to be replaced by another plan that also gathers dust, what use are they?” and to that it was added: “The MPO Directors are quite right that without Redevelopment 2.0, cap and trade revenues, and other new resources, these plans won’t achieve their potential.”
Now, as it had to do with the San Joaquin Valley SCSes, this area at the meeting in question seemed to get short shrift, at least this is what I was able to discern based on my understanding of what the ClimatePlan Director related in this regard. Also brought to bear was information about the report from the Valley-based Councils of Government, which in Bernstein’s words, was “less-than-illuminating.”
In concluding, Bernstein seemed quite resolute.
The ClimatePlan Director pleaded: “We hope ARB’s focus on the Valley will increase in the coming months, as the SCS process comes to a head. Draft SCSes will hit the street in February and March. With at least one Valley county (Merced) poised to not meet its targets, and GHG predictions ricocheting around like caffeinated puppies, the steady leadership of ARB will be needed to ensure that all Valley communities achieve cleaner air and healthier communities.”
She can say that again!
Where to go from here
As it stands and being that the above review seems mixed, how best to proceed going forward is the question. Not to be forgotten though with regard to all this is that the Golden State is a major contributor to world GHG.
Oh, and one more thing: As if California didn’t have enough on its plate already, California Senate Bill 4, passed only recently, in effect, grants conditional drilling rights to the vast (and I do mean vast) oil reserves of the Monterey Shale formation – the state’s modern-day Mother Lode. The impact on the environment – air and water – that tapping into this so-called “gold mine” will have, that is, in the grand scheme of things, at this time remains unclear. Moreover, it is difficult to say whether there will be a net GHG rise, decline or even if such will stay the same as a result.
In looking on the bright side and the Monterey Shale venture aside, make no mistake: the great thing about the SCSes is that if thorough enough and followed through on, this could indeed have a profound positive effect on the air.
And that right there is cause for optimism.
– Alan Kandel