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California Budget Reflects Accelerated Effort on Climate Change

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In 2015, California advanced climate change goals beyond 2020 with several overreaching policies in an attempt to solidify Californiaís role as a global leader in the climate change debate.
Last January, Governor Jerry Brownís inaugural address introduced five key targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:
  • Increase electricity derived from renewable sources to 50 percent.
  • Reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent.
  • Double the rate of energy efficiency savings in existing buildings, and make heating fuels cleaner.
  • Reduce the release of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane and black carbon.
  • Increase carbon sequestration on farms and rangelands, and in forests and wetlands.
By April, the governor had issued Executive Order B-30-15 establishing a GHG emissions reduction target for the state of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The Legislature subsequently enacted, and the governor signed, SB 350 (De Leon) which effectively doubled the rate of energy efficiency California will require in state-owned buildings, required the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and to work on establishing widespread transportation electrification.

In preparing for the Paris Climate meeting at the end of 2015, the Brown Administration spent the year reaching out to subnational governments worldwide seeking support for an agreement known as the "Under 2 MOU." Any subnational signing on must agree to take steps to limit temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius by 2050.  (This is the warming threshold at which scientists predict that dangerous climate disruptions will occur.) California was able to get just over 123 subnational jurisdictions to sign the agreement. 

The governorís 2016-17 budget contains a $3.1 billion Cap-and-Trade expenditure plan.  The planís proposed allocations regarding the stateís environmental goals on climate change reflects Californiaís support of the United Nations global climate pact, and attempts to buttress Californiaís leadership role in the Under 2 MOU, as well as providing funds to implement SB 350. The $3.1 billion reflects the balance of auction proceeds that were not appropriated in 2015-16, as well as the expenditure of expected proceeds in 2016-17.

The governorís plan appears to follow the second triennial investment plan for Cap and Trade auction proceeds. The proposed plan continues to expend at least 10 percent of the proceeds within disadvantaged communities and at least 25 percent of the proceeds to projects that benefit those communities as required under De Leonís SB 535.  

Also, despite being stripped from SB350, the governor will continue to pursue a statewide 50-percent reduction in petroleum use. Angered by the oil companiesí opposition to this policy, the governor signaled the Air Resources Board to reinstate the Low Carbon Fuels Program. Also, the governorís "pet project," the High-Speed Rail Project, has garnered a total of $500 million in this yearís budget.

Written by CLFP Government Affairs Director John Larrea  

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