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*California approves plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions

December 11, 2008 | 10:57 am

Updated at 5:00 p.m.

The California Air Resources Board has unanimously adopted the nation’s most sweeping plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The bold move by the world’s eighth-largest economy would cut the state’s emissions by 15% over the next 12 years. It lays out targets for virtually every sector of the economy, from electrical plants and automobiles to landfills and city planning. And it amounts to an average cut of four tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for every person in the state.

"We have laid out a path that, if followed, can transform our economy and put us on the road to a healthier state," said Mary Nichols, the head of the state Air Resources Board. "The task of coping with global warming is not something California can do alone and not something that will be finished in 2020. It is something our children and grandchildren will have to cope with as well. But if use this road map, we are putting California on the right track to transform our economy in a way that is good for our environment, for our health, for our future." 

(Read more after the jump)

-- Margot Roosevelt

The blueprint, which  would be implemented over the next two years, puts California at the forefront of national climate policy at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to push ahead with national efforts to control emissions.

Worldwide, planet-warming gas emissions have been growing far more rapidly than scientists had predicted. And in California, with a fast-growing population and sprawling suburban development, emissions were on track to increase by 30% over 1990 levels by 2020.

The state is expected to experience severe damage from climate change, including water shortages from a shrinking snowpack, increased wildfires, rising coastal sea levels and pollution-aggravating heat waves.

Manufacturers and chambers of commerce have called on regulators to cut the cost of the climate plan, saying that it will cost businesses billions of dollars in higher electricity costs, as utilities are forced to move to renewable energy. Automakers have also fought California’s pending rule to crack down on carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a regulation that more than a dozen states say they will also adopt. (Update: An earlier version of this post said manufacturers and chambers of commerce  had asked for a delay in the plan; they have asked for its cost to be cut.)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger  strongly endorsed the climate plan, which includes a cap-and-trade plan that would permit industries to trade pollution credits to meet the targets more cheaply.

"We have no intention of backing away from our historic commitment to the fight against global warming because the economy has slowed down," Schwarzenegger said in a message this week to international climate negotiators who are meeting in Poland.

"The green rules and regulations that will help save our planet will also revive our economies."