Arnold Schwarzenegger tackles California's greenhouse gas environment issues head-on

05 February 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB Americas]

Arnold Schwarzenegger is tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Will the country and the rest of the world follow in the fight against global warming?

JOSEPH CHANG/NEW YORK

TO TUNE in to the latest US fashion trends, you go to New York. But for a sense of where the country is headed on the environmental front, keep an eye on California and its high-profile governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Having passed the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, which put caps on greenhouse gas emissions from industry for the first time in history, California is leading the charge to fight global warming.

Passed by the California legislature in September 2006, the Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32) aims to reduce industry greenhouse gas emissions by 25% to 1990 levels by 2020, and another 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

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"This is something we owe our children and our grandchildren," said Gov. Schwarzenegger at signing ceremonies in San Francisco and Los Angeles last September. "Some have challenged whether AB 32 is good for businesses. I say unquestionably it is good for businesses - not only large, well-established businesses, but small businesses that will harness their entrepreneurial spirit to help us achieve our climate goals."

"We are the first state in the nation to adopt caps on greenhouse gas emissions," says California EPA official BreAnda Northcutt. "That sends a big signal to industries and local governments that this governor has a very aggressive commitment to help stop global warming."

How to implement and enforce the goal is very much up in the air, however. It will be up to the California Air Resources Board to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions. Over the coming months, the board will invite participation from all fronts, gather information and create a viable plan.

The five largest emitters

Five of the largest greenhouse gas-emitting industries in California will be required to report their emissions. They include cement, oil and gas extraction, oil refining, electric power and solid-waste landfills.

"By developing this mandatory reporting system, the board will develop protocols and a baseline to determine where the industries were in 1990 and give them a plan to get to that level," says Northcutt. "Basically every industry will have to reduce their emissions to their 1990 levels."

The Air Resources Board will have broad authority to regulate emissions from all sources. Mandatory caps on emissions will begin in 2012 for significant sources.

With its massive economy, California is the 12th largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, despite its environmental focus.

On Dec. 20, 2006, Linda Adams, state Secretary for Environmental Protection, appointed a 14-member committee to make recommendations to the Air Resources Board by June 30, 2007, to design a market-based compliance program. This system would include the trading of carbon-emission credits.

In October 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger said California will work with New York and other states in the Northeast to create a market system to cut emissions.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki spearheaded the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2001, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from about 300 power plants by 10% below 2000 levels by 2019, by issuing and trading emission credits. Seven northeastern states are part of the program, which will start in 2009.

Going back to Cali

It is critical for the chemical and other industries to take note of environmental developments in California to see where legislation may be headed in the US.

"If we look at history, 10 other states have adopted California's regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles enacted in 2005," Northcutt points out.

Industry has expressed concern about the bill. Last August, the Chemical Industry Council of California said the bill effectively tells manufacturers they are not welcome in the state.

However, California EPA says it welcomes participation by industry in creating the emissions reduction plan.

"The important thing is that everyone has been invited to the table on how we create this plan. It's more costly to do nothing," Northcutt says. "There is opportunity for innovative companies to develop technologies to help solve the problem."

The big picture

California's groundbreaking legislation on global warming is part of a bigger, greener picture. Gov. Schwarzenegger is advocating the building of solar panels into homes; hybrid vehicles and wind power.

The state is developing the California Hydrogen Highway network to support vehicles. Last July, the Air Resources Board announced it will establish three hydrogen fueling stations, the first of which will be cofunded by the state. Commissioning is expected to begin in late 2007.

"Down the road, as car manufacturers commercialize these cars over the next 10-15 years, we'll actually have the infrastructure set up for them," says Northcutt.

Gov. Schwarzenegger retrofitted one of his four Hummers to run on alternative fuels.


CALIFORNIA GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS ACT OF 2006


July 1, 2007 Air Resources Board (ARB) forms Environmental Justice and Economic & Technology Advancement advisory committees
July 1, 2007 ARB adopts list of early-action measures that can be implemented by Jan. 1, 2010
Jan. 1, 2008 ARB adopts regulations for mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting and defines 1990 baseline
Jan. 1, 2009 ARB adopts plan on how emission reductions will be achieved
Jan. 1, 2010 Early action measures take effect
Jan. 1, 2011 ARB completes rulemakings for reducing GHGs, including market mechanisms
Jan. 1, 2012 Rules and market mechanisms take effect and are legally enforceable
Dec. 31, 2020 Deadline for achieving 2002 GHG emissions cap
Source: California EPA


WORLDWIDE SUPPORT

Spanning the globe

Not only is California aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its own backyard, it is also joining with leaders around the world to develop best practices, and share information and technology to help reverse the trend of global warming.

The signing of the Global Warming Solutions Act in California was supported by a throng of international dignitaries and personalities who participated in person, by satellite or offered support through letters. They included British Prime Minister Tony Blair, New York's then-Governor George Pataki, Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, BP Chairman John Browne and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"When California succeeds in the fight against global warming, other states, the federal government, and large developing countries like China, India and Mexico will follow," said Secretary Adams in a radio address last September. "As the Governor said when he signed the bill: when we reduce carbon emissions in California and still grow and protect our economy, we will have begun a bold new era of environmental protection that can change the course of history."

In July 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger and Tony Blair signed a historic agreement to partner to address climate change and promote energy diversity.

"California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming," said Gov. Schwarzenegger in July. "Today, we are taking an unprecedented step by signing an agreement between California and the United Kingdom. International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming and California has a responsibility and a profound role to play to protect not only our environment, but to be a world leader on this issue as well."

The agreement will focus on evaluating market-based mechanisms such as trading emission credits, collaborating on technology research in areas such as hydrogen and clean coal, sharing information on the economic impact of climate change and enhancing relationships between scientific communities.

Secretary Adams has been traveling the world to discuss global warming initiatives with international leaders, attending events such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, last November.

"Just like California, there are states or provinces in other countries that want to make a difference in global warming even if their national leadership is not going in the same direction," says Northcutt. "So many people are looking to collaborate on climate initiatives. They have a lot of hope that what's happening in California is something that others will follow."

What are your views? What are you doing to improve emissions? Email joseph.chang@icis.com

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