This week the California Air Resources Board (CARB) launched the first of a series of public workshops to discuss their proposed greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets mandated by Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg). SB 375, known as the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, directs CARB to set regional reduction targets for most areas of the state by this September. In addition, the law calls on California’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations to prepare a “sustainable communities strategy” that will dictate how land use, housing and transportation planning will be integrated to meet the emission reduction targets.
Household travel resulting from land use planning decisions is the single-largest and the fastest-growing source of global warming pollution in the state. By locating homes near jobs and reducing sprawling new development, California can take a significant step toward curbing global warming. Where CARB sets the targets, however, will determine if we take that step or if we continue with business as usual.
At this week’s workshop, representatives from community, environmental, and public health groups expressed concerns that the proposed targets were not high enough and would not lead to actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed targets could create a per capita decrease in emissions, but with a growing population they would not achieve an overall reduction. Although CARB representatives stated that the SB 375 emission reductions targets are just one tool that will be used to reach absolute emission reductions. However it is clear that if the proposed targets are not ambitious enough we will miss this opportunity to truly combat climate change.