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ARB’s January Board Meeting: Scoping Plan presented to Board but dismissed by EJAC

January 31, 2017 by Billy Hamshaw

(CaliforniaCarbon.info, Jan 31, 2017)

ARB’s board members met for the first time this year in Sacramento last week. This meeting was the first of three hearings that will discuss the proposed 2030 target scoping plan released earlier this month. The board will present its final considerations of the plan in March, a delay of one month from its previous timeframe to account for the array of public input collated.

Chair Nichols opened the meeting by highlighting the dynamic nature of California’s climate policy. Allowing for critique of the current program, she expressed how new science and continuous feedback would advance the state’s climate mitigation efforts.

Following a keynote speech at the Climate Change Symposium the previous day, the boardroom was graced by the presences of Glen Murray, Ontario’s Environmental Minister. Speaking as eloquently as ever, Minister Murray addressed the board by asserting the valued partnership between both states and the moral responsibility of climate leadership – a recurring theme throughout the day’s discussion. Whilst acknowledging that continued work was to be done to address contaminant issues in low income communities, he advocated for deepening relationships with emerging partners and continuing economic prosperity through the export of climate policies.

ARB Staff members were next to address the boardroom, presenting the report on the proposed scoping plan. As outlined in CC.info’s summary of the the plan last week, the report reflected the Staff’s justification for their preference in the current cap-and-trade program. Also included were further details of the Sustainable Freight Action Plan and the New Refinery Efficiency Measure.

The latest alternative included within the proposed plan, based on recommendations from EJAC, was the Cap-and-Tax option. Staff members scrutinised the economic impact of this option , since the scenario is forecasted to lead to an inflated carbon price. Also questioned was the feasibility of some sectors adjusting to the declining sector-specific cap without incurring diminished production and loss of jobs. The staff reiterated their affirmation that cap-and-trade was the most cost-efficient pathway, and that the overall impact on the economy based on their models, would be negligible.

Whilst no mention of offsets was made in the presentation, Staff did acknowledge the importance of natural and working lands as important sinks of GHGs. Evaluating policy pathways to manage California’s Natural and Working Lands is recommended under the plan as an important next step.

In demonstrating the cross integration of climate action across the different state regulators, senior members from a range of state agencies were in attendance to outline their plan of ambition. The speakers commended the board for its collaborative and inclusive approach in reaching its ambitious targets.

Unlike some previous meetings, members of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (EJAC) were well represented, and challenged elements of the post-2020 programme proposed by Staff. Katie Valenzuela Garcia, a leading voice of the group, outlined her scepticism over the assumed GHG reductions under the cap-and-trade program, and said how she felt significant data was missing from the report. With more time needed for EJAC to complete its community outreach workshops and present their findings, she appealed to the board to delay its proposed final decision on the Scoping Plan. Katie also revealed that she believed the cap-and-tax alternative had been overlooked as a viable policy option and called for further analysis.

Prioritising local emission reductions and abolishing offsets were again amongst key concerns raised by the advisory council, who also called for a clearer long term vision of 2050 under California’s climate ambition. A comprehensive and well articulated list of recommendations included the provision for a ‘Just Transition Fund’ to aid workers affected by the energy transition; aggressive reduction of oil and gas uses; and strict restrictions on waste-to-energy initiatives used on agricultural sites.

The latter part of the discussion shifted to the economic and modelling aspects of the plan’s evaluation. Chair Nichols and board members probed experts on the scope for deeper analysis and integration of public health benefits under different scenarios.

The board will next meet on February 16, 2017.

Billy Hamshaw – billy@californiacarbon.info

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