California: A Leader Twice Over

The State of California has extended its leading cap-and-trade program for another decade, demonstrating to the global community that a huge part of the US economy has a viable plan to meet very aggressive carbon mitigation goals that are consistent with the path to deep decarbonization needed globally to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. This new legislation allows California to retain compliance flexibility—potentially including linkages with Canadian provinces–and thereby facilitates the state’s high level of ambition. Importantly, this law extending California’s carbon market was made possible by a separate and equally groundbreaking effort that aims to make progress in reducing criteria air pollutants and toxic air contaminants that disproportionately impact low income and minority communities living near point, area, indirect and mobile pollution sources.

Addressing concerns raised by environmental justice advocates about insufficient progress in reducing air pollution from refineries and other sources subject to carbon limits under the state’s cap-and-trade program, a new air quality law establishes a community-focused air pollution control program. Enabled by low cost sensor technologies, AB 617 establishes a new control program to abate elevated pollution in communities that are exposed to high levels of air pollution and/or are experiencing adverse health impacts. Providing new tools and mandates to address localized air pollution from a range of sources, if fully funded and implemented, this program promises to improve the lives and livelihoods of California residents that experience high cumulative air pollution impacts because of where they live and work.

Some of the elements of this program drew from ideas discussed during meetings of the Environmental Justice and Climate Policy Solutions Dialogue, which included participation from CCAP as part of the CEPP project team. See the Full Report for more details on the CEPP project team’s recommendations for a new localized program to address emissions hotspots. The full report offers guidance that will be helpful as CARB and air districts work towards implementation.

We applaud California’s efforts and support full implementation of both of these critical policy programs.

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