California’s landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. These are the most ambitious targets in the United States and environmental justice groups went to bat for the law in a referendum battle (Proposition 23) in the November 2010 election. While there is near-universal support from environmentalists on the intent of the law, a split has developed over the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) implementation of it. Despite recommendations from its own Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee, CARB (directed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) decided to use a so-called “cap-and-trade” model to provide incentives to businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 20 percent of the targeted reductions. This decision was finalized on December 16, 2010.
On March 17, 2011 a San Francisco Superior Court blocked implementation of all of AB32 based on a lawsuit by Environmental Justice groups. In their April 22 filings, the EJ plaintiffs offered to restrict the block on implementation to the cap-and-trade part of the plan, but so far CARB has not taken them up on the offer. Many of the elements in the overall California plan—such as vehicle emission, standards and the requirement that utilities purchase 33 percent of their power from renewable sources—have distinct legislative origins and will continue to move forward, but as of May 2011, AB32 remains on hold. (For Resources and Frequently Asked Questions, please see CJ Resources page. —Ed.
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