Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Fall 2015, Vol. 24, No. 2

AB 32’s Pollution Markets: A Technology-Driven Solution or A Step Backward for Climate Change?

by Suma Peesapati*

California stands at the fore of the battle against climate change with AB 32’s landmark mandate to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Governor Brown’s recent Executive Order advances the ball even farther, by targeting a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.1 According to the Governor’s Office, this target represents "the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half."2 California rightfully touts these ambitious goals as indicia of its global leadership on climate change. As the country’s most populous state, driven by an economic engine that rivals some of the world’s wealthiest nations, achieving these unprecedented cuts in pollution will require unprecedented innovation.

Fortunately, this too, is where our state excels. The enterprising spirit of the early gold rush endures, as our Golden State’s moniker suggests. An ethos of innovation and progress underlies the great technological advances in Silicon Valley, justifies our technology-forcing clean energy requirements, and places California in the vanguard of our country’s cultural and spiritual evolution. This unapologetic transcendence may well have prompted Theodore Roosevelt to famously state, "When I am in California, I am not in the West, I am west of the West."3

In enacting AB 32, our Legislature expressly sought to leverage the State’s unbridled innovation in a comprehensive scheme to meet the daunting challenge of climate change—one of the greatest environmental threats of our time.

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