Welcome to California!  You are visiting the portion of this website that highlights exclusively California-specific transportation, land use, and climate change policy and implementation.  I hope you enjoy the information and stay tuned as other state pages are developed.

California Policy

According to the California Air Resources Board (2008), transportation accounts for nearly 40% of the State’s greenhouse gas emissions.  California first addressed climate change in 1988 with the passage of AB 4420 (Sher, Chapter 1506, Statutes of 1988) directing the California Energy Commission (CEC) to study global warming impacts to the state and develop an inventory of greenhouse gas emission sources.  In 2000, SB 1771 (Sher, Chapter 1018, Statutes of 2000) established the California Climate Action Registry to allow companies, cities and government agencies to voluntarily record their greenhouse gas emissions in anticipation of a possible program that would allow them to be credited for early reductions.

In 2001 the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”  The following year, AB 1493 (Pavley, Chapter 200, Statutes of 2002) was signed, requiring the Air Resources Board to develop regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles sold in California.  The governors of California, Washington, and Oregon adopted a Global Warming Initiative in 2003 with provisions for the states to work together on climate change related programs.  Two years later Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-3-05, calling for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  AB 32: The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 later established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The 2020 goal was established to be an aggressive, but achievable, mid-term target, and the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal represents the level scientists believe is necessary to reach levels that will stabilize climate.  In January 2007 the Governor issued Executive Order S-01-07 for California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, which will reduce the carbon intensity of California’s passenger vehicle fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020.

With new vehicle efficiency and fuel carbon intensity requirements, the State of California has addressed two major aspects of the role transportation emissions play in contributing to global climate change.  However reductions in vehicle travel are still needed in order to meet California’s 2020 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals.  The aspect of travel behavior is being taken up through SB 375: Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008.

SB 375: “Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008”

Senate Bill 375 – with support from the California Building Industry Association, League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, and many environmental groups, affordable housing advocates, and planners – lays out a framework for regional land use and transportation planning supported voluntarily.  This law requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to establish regional greenhouse gas targets for each Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in California.  SB 375 also mandates MPOs to create a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” (SCS) to plan for how they will achieve their given GHG target.  However, if an MPO cannot meet their GHG target through the development of an SCS, an “Alternative Planning Strategy” may be created to detail additional measures that an MPO could take to achieve the target given other circumstances (i.e. market trends).  Two excellent resources for detailed information on SB 375 requirements and implications include the California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee SB 375 Analysis and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Guide to California’s SB 375” (2009)

While the signing of SB 375 into law marks a historic acknowledgment that the status quo of development patterns and auto-dependent communities is unhealthy for both the planet and people, the lack of fiscal or other consequences and the small “incentive” offered for good planning through the California Environmental Quality Act will likely result in a process that has minimal influence on development patterns and resulting vehicle travel.  However, the good news is that there are dozens of cities, counties, non-profits, consultancy firms, state agencies, and academic institutions trying to figure out how to best support a new transportation/land use planning framework that tries to minimize vehicle travel.

More information on California’s legislative development: http://policyinmotion.com/transclimate-policy/