California Passes Cap & Trade Bill - Creates World's Second Largest Emission Trading Scheme

california cars and wind turbines photo

photo: Kevin Dooley/Creative Commons

The California Air Resources Board yesterday passed a statewide cap and trade bill for greenhouse gas emissions, creating the second-largest emissions trading scheme in the world after Europe's. A 9-to-1 vote brings into effect what CARB chairman Mary Nichols calls the capstone of the state's climate policy, which aims to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.That's a 15% reduction from business-as-usual emissions, but is well below what scientists now believe is needed to avoid dangerous temperature increases. Nevertheless, the California program leads the way in US climate change efforts.

The new regulation sets a statewide limit on greenhouse gas emissions from sources responsible for 80% of California's total emissions, covering 360 companies and 600 specific facilities in the initial phase of the program, running from 2012-2014. From 2015-2020 distributors of transportation fuels, natural gas and other fuels are brought into the scheme.

Rather than specifying a specific limit on emissions from a given facility, the program mandates that companies have enough emission allotments to cover their annual emissions, obtained either through the initial allotment period when then are supplied by the state for free or purchased at a later date. Each year the total number of allowances supplied by the state declines through 2020.

In a more which will surely prove controversial to segments of the environmental community, 8% of a company's emissions can be covered by offset projects, which will be vetted under a number of criteria so that it can be proven that the projects are genuinely offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.

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