Ken Alex is a Senior Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The views expressed in this blog post are his own.
California’s AB 32 is the most important climate change law in the country. We are in full implementation mode to meet the requirement that California’s greenhouse gas emissions fall to 1990 levels by 2020. Renewables will provide at least 33 percent of power to the grid by 2020, and emissions from new vehicles are scheduled to drop very significantly in that time frame. The cap and trade system is in its initial launch, and will address about 20 percent of the 2020 emission reduction requirement. So far, the progress towards 2020 is encouraging.
California also has a 2050 target for GHG reduction of 80 percent below 1990 levels, based on Executive Orders. 2050 is not as far away as it used to be, and reaching that target appears daunting. AB 32 provides no specific targets or reduction requirements beyond 2020. So how do we get there?
2050 is still in the somewhat hazy future, and, as we know, technology changes rapidly around here. So the Brown Administration will be focusing on the 2030 to 2035 time frame: what are the reduction requirements that keep us on track for 2050? What are the cost considerations? Which actions should we take first? What is the best path for success?
We are thinking about this set of issues in a number of different ways, including feasibility, cost, and efficacy. For example, if we can implement energy efficiency measures first, we will need to build less generation, reducing costs overall and obtaining GHG reductions earlier. If we can reduce the number of miles people travel in their cars, our requirements for reductions in carbon content in fuels may be slightly easier to meet.
There are some even larger reasons to start planning the route to 2030-35. California is leading the nation on most aspects of GHG reduction to 2020. With careful consideration of the path beyond 2020, we will continue to lead and show what is possible and viable. In addition, the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is aiming toward the meeting in Paris in 2015 to establish a post-Kyoto regime. The Kyoto agreement, like AB 32, lacks specificity after 2020.
California’s determination of a viable path to GHG reduction in the 2030-35 timeframe will illuminate the world’s discussion in Paris. Over the next year, through the AB 32 Scoping Plan update and something called the Environmental Goals and Policy Report, along with other evaluations and actions including a state plan on climate change preparedness, California will engage in this discussion and evaluation in earnest. Please join in.