California's Climate Change Program: Lessons for the Nation

By Nichols, Mary D. | UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

California's Climate Change Program: Lessons for the Nation


Nichols, Mary D., UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. THE IMPERATIVE OF STATE CLIMATE ACTION
     A. Exercise of a State's Police Powers to Protect
        Public Health and Its Natural Resources
     B. Exercise of the State's Policy Prerogative:
        Laboratory of Democracy
     C. Future National Climate Policy Framework: A
        Federal-State-Local Partnership

III. CALIFORNIA'S MODEL OF POLICY DEVELOPMENT:
     LEADERSHIP, CROSS-AGENCY ENGAGEMENT, AND
     STAKEHOLDER INVOLVEMENT
      A. Consistent Leadership
      B. Efforts by California's State Agency Climate
         Action Team
      C. Stakeholders: Local Governmental Agencies,
         Industry, NGOs and Individuals

 IV. MULTIPLE CHALLENGES, MULTIPLE TOOLS
     A. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Climate
        Change Executive Orders
     B. California's Assembly Bill 32 Framework:
        Markets and Mandates
     C. California's Upcoming Development of a Cap-and-Trade
        Program

  V. COMPREHENSIVE POLICY EXAMPLE:
     TRANSPORTATION SECTOR
     A. California's Passenger Vehicles Greenhouse Gas
        Regulation: The Parley Standards
     B. California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard
     C. Senate Bill 375: Land Use, Vehicle Miles
        Traveled, and Greenhouse Gas Reductions
        Through Incentives

VI. CALIFORNIA'S HARD-WON CLIMATE CHANGE
    LESSONS FOR THE NATION
    A. Demonstrate Clear and Determined
       Leadership
    B. Act Now
    C. Set a Specific, Declining Emissions Cap
    D. Engage Government and the Private Sector at
       All Levels and in All "Silos".
    E. Federal Policy Must Engage the Effort of
       Stakeholders and Citizens from Across the
       Political and Economic Spectrum

I.

INTRODUCTION

Climate change is a real and urgent threat to our communities, our states and our nation. California, like many other states, is already experiencing its impacts. Over the past 100 years, the Golden State has seen a seven-inch rise in sea level, eroding our coastal communities and threatening critical infrastructure. (1) In the winter, more of our precipitation now falls as rain rather than snow, leading to less water availability in the critical spring and summer months--an impact that threatens one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world and a pillar of the nation's export economy. (2) Climate change is also a major factor in California's longer and more severe wildfire season--an impact dramatically illustrated in 2008 when over 1 million acres burned and air quality monitors were overwhelmed in efforts to measure record-breaking levels of particulate matter. And these effects are merely a preview.

It is predicted that without major efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, in this century California will see an additional one- to two-foot rise in sea levels, a doubling in the frequency of drought years, a 55 percent increase of large forest fires and a 75 percent loss in California's snowpack, our state's biggest natural reservoir. (3) These threats are mirrored around our nation and around the globe. I emphasize them to underscore my contention that the nation must follow California's lead by taking swift, decisive and comprehensive action to address climate change.

Not only is climate change an urgent and dire threat, it is also a complex one. The combustion of fossil fuels is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, but by no means the only one. Sources as diverse as agriculture, forestry and industrial processes also contribute to climate change. Cutting emissions from these sources will require a multifaceted response that includes a variety of regulatory, market-based and voluntary actions undertaken at all levels of government, industry and society. And, like the diversity of sources that contribute to climate change, the opportunities to reduce emissions--and the economic opportunities to create new, clean technologies--vary between different industries, regions and individuals. …

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