Although California’s Legislature has made great strides over the last two years to address the problems of climate change, there is still much to be done during the 2017 legislative session. Lawmakers have set ambitious new goals for emissions reductions and renewable energy production, and they have committed to reduce the worst types of carbon pollution from the air we breathe. But one key task left over from the 2016 legislation is the reauthorization of the state’s cap-and-trade market. Also, there is a critical need for California to respond to the federal government’s decision to pull away from key climate change policies.
California is currently the only state with a market-based incentive program to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Created through the landmark California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and implemented in 2012, the state’s cap-and-trade program has helped the state move toward its ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals while raising billions of dollars for climate programs. The program is set to expire in 2020 unless it is renewed, but because the market depends on certainty, officials need to reauthorize it as soon as possible.
Audubon California supports Assembly Bill 378, authored by Eduardo Garcia, which will reauthorize the cap-and-trade program. This bill is working its way through the Legislature right now, and we will work with a number of partners to support equitable solutions to communities that have long suffered the worst air pollution. Our goal is to see a cap-and-trade program reauthorized that improves on the prior model and addresses these concerns; while an overall reduction of emissions is the ultimate goal, we cannot fairly achieve that by furthering burdening communities that have historically borne the burden of polluting industries.
Retauthoization of the cap-and-trade program is only part of California’s efforts to resist rollbacks in environmental and public health protection at the federal level. Senate Bill 49, authored by Senate President pro tem Kevin De León, would enshrine current protections around clean air, clean water, and endangered species in the event that the federal government reduces or eliminates them. Likewise, SB 50 from Ben Allen, would ensure that the State of California has the right of first refusal to purchase any federal lands that the Trump Administration may try to sell in our state.
Another vital effort is to ensure that California’s natural resource agencies, particularly the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of State Parks, have adequate funding to meet their current mandates and any new burdens that may occur due to federal cuts. Therefore, Audubon California is strongly supporting AB 1617, authored by Richard Bloom, to enact a new funding stream to fully support this work. In the case of climate, it will help ensure that we manage our habitat areas in a way that takes into account the coming challenges from climate change.
There are many other bills related to climate change moving through the Legislature right now (Juan Altamirano, our lead on legislative matters, is currently tracking approximately 150 bills!). We’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date as things evolve.