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HandWiki. Climate Change Policy of California. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 15 June 2024).
HandWiki. Climate Change Policy of California. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2024.
HandWiki. "Climate Change Policy of California" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 15, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, December 01). Climate Change Policy of California. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Climate Change Policy of California." Encyclopedia. Web. 01 December, 2022.
Climate Change Policy of California

California has taken legislative steps in the hope of mitigating the risks of potential effects of climate change in California by incentives and plans for clean cars, renewable energy, and pollution controls on industry.

climate change california pollution

1. Scoping Plan

Development of the Scoping Plan is a central requirement of AB 32, which is a bill that calls on California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The required Scoping Plan is intended to outline the approach California will take to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The comprehensive approach includes both new and existing measures in almost every sector of California's economy.

The initial AB 32 Scoping Plan included a series of proposals that would become law in 2008.[1] The initiatives include implementing a cap-and-trade program on carbon dioxide emissions (that will be developed in conjunction with the Western Climate Initiative, to create a regional carbon market) that will require buildings and appliances to use less energy.[2] Additionally, it requires oil companies to make cleaner fuels, and utilities to provide a third of their energy from renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal power and proposes to expand and strengthen existing energy efficiency programs. The Plan will also encourage development of walkable cities with shorter commutes, high-speed rail as an alternative to air travel, and will require more hybrid vehicles to move goods and people, following the implementation of the California Clean Car law (the Pavley standards).[3]

Several additional initiatives and measures factor into reaching the required reductions under AB 32. These include:

  • full deployment of the Million Solar Roofs initiative.
  • a fuel efficiency tire program which sets standards for tire pressure and purchasing replacement tires
  • water-related energy efficiency measures; and
  • a range of regulations to reduce emissions from trucks and from ships docked in California ports. [4]

A key feature of the Scoping Plan is that it must be updated by the California Air Resources Board every five years. This is so California can continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the government sets stricter standards in recent years (as seen by Executive Order B-16-12 which was issued in 2012 and aims to reduce emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050). [5] Multiple public workshops are held every time a new Scoping Plan is proposed, so that the Board can receive feedback from the public before approving the updated Plan.[6] The first update to the Scoping Plan was approved by the Board on May 22, 2014, and builds upon the original Scoping Plan by outlining new initiatives and recommendations.[7] The update identifies possibilities to invest new and existing funds in low carbon technologies and other opportunities to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels in the next five years. These proposed measures focus on nine main sectors including transportation, water, energy, waste management, the cap-and-trade program, the energy efficiency of residential and non-residential buildings, and natural and agricultural lands. [8]

2. Legislation

California has enacted climate change legislation and executive orders:[9]

  • Assembly Bill (AB) 32 – California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – Pavley, Statutes of 2006, Chapter 488
    • Governor Schwarzenegger Executive Order S-3-05, June 1, 2005
  • Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, also known as SB 375, which required urban planners to limit urban sprawl
  • Assembly Bill (AB) 1007, (Pavley, Chapter 371, Statutes of 2005) requires the California Energy Commission to prepare a state plan to increase the use of alternative fuels in California (Alternative Fuels Plan)
  • Senate Bill (SB) 812 – Statutes of 2002, Chapter 423
  • AB 1493 (2002)
  • SB 527 (October 2001)
  • SB 1771 (2000)
  • SB 1204 (2014) – establishes a fund that will technology for zero- and near-zero-emission trucks, buses and off-road vehicles.[10]
  • SB 1275 (2014) – Establishes a state goal of 1 million zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles in service by 2020[11]

2.1. Similar Laws

In 2006, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed interest in California joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative[12]

2.2. AB 1493

It is the successor bill to AB 1058, was enacted on July 22, 2002 by Governor Gray Davis and mandates that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) develop and implement greenhouse gas limits for vehicles beginning in model year 2009. Subsequently, as directed by AB 1493, the CARB on September 24, 2004 approved regulations limiting the amount of greenhouse gas that may be released from new passenger cars, SUVs and pickup trucks sold in California in model year 2009. The automotive industry has sued, claiming this is simply a way to impose gas mileage standards on automobiles—a field already preempted by federal rules. The case is working its way through the court system. The CARB staff's analysis has concluded that the new rules will result in savings for vehicle buyers through lower fuel expenses that will more than offset the increased initial costs of new vehicles. Critics claim that these will only work if serious reductions are made in automobile and truck sizes.

California standard uses grams per mile average CO2-equivalent value, which means that emissions of the various greenhouse gases are weighted to take into account their differing impact on climate change (i.e. maximum 323 g/mi (200 g/km) in 2009 and 205 g/mi (127 g/km) in 2016 for passenger cars).[13]

A federal district court ruled on December 12, 2007, that the state and federal laws could co-exist,[14] but on December 19, the EPA denied California's request for the necessary waiver to implement its law, saying the local emissions had little effect on global warming, and that the conditions in California were not "compelling and extraordinary" as required by law.[15] California intends to sue the EPA to force reconsideration, given the precedent of Massachusetts v. EPA, which ruled that carbon dioxide was an air pollutant which EPA had authority to regulate.[16][17] Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington are also interested in adopting California's automobile emissions standards.

2.3. AB 32

In September 2006, the California State Legislature passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 with the goal of reducing man-made California greenhouse gas emissions (1.4% of global emissions in 2004) back to 1990 emission levels by 2020. In order to reach this goal, the California Air Resources Board has adopted a variety of legislation including plans for greener transportation, waste reduction, a cap-and-trade program, the use of new energy efficient technology and the expansion of renewable energy resources. [18]

The greenhouse gases that AB 32 targets include:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Perfluorocarbons
  • Sulfur hexafluoride
  • Nitrogen trifluoride (was not included in the original AB Scoping Plan but was later listed as a targeted greenhouse gas via legislation)[19]

The emissions target of AB 32 has been updated to a stricter target following Executive Order B-16-12 and B-30-15. Therefore, updates of the AB 32 Scoping Plan continue to introduce new measures in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.[20]

Funding for the implementation of AB 32 is collected from greenhouse gas emitters. This includes approximately 250 fee payers from polluters such as electric power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other large industries. In addition, the revenue collected from auctioning permits to greenhouse gas emitters through the cap-and-trade system is also used to fund programs under AB 32.[21]

2.4. Timeline

Below is a timeline that encompasses the recent greenhouse gas emissions reduction bills currently into law in California:[22][23][24]

Deadline What needs to happen Bill
June 2005 California Executive Order S-3-05 signed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger establishing a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction plan S-3-05
September 2006 AB-32 (Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) signed into law by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger establishing GHG reduction goals for 2020. AB-32
January 2008 CARB adopts Mandatory Reporting Regulation for GHGs AB-32
January 2009 CARB adopts Scoping Plan AB-32
January 2010 Early action measures go into effect AB-32
During 2010 CARB writes rules to adopt GHG regulations AB-32
December 2010 Deadline to reduce GHG emissions to 2000 levels S-3-05
January 2011 CARB completes rule makings for GHG reduction AB-32
January 2012 GHG rules adopted and implemented AB-32
November 2012 First quarterly auction of GHG emissions as part of Cap and Trade program occur AB-32
January 2013 Cap and Trade program begins AB-32
September 2013 CARB issues first carbon offset credits AB-32
May 2014 CARB approves first update to the Scoping Plan AB-32
April 2015 California Executive Order B-30-15 is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown B-30-15
September 2016 Senate Bill 32 and Assembly Bill 197 are signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown SB-32, AB-197
January 2017 SB-32 and AB-197 go into effect SB-32, AB-197
January 2018 CARB adds toxic air contaminant emissions inventory AB-197
December 2020 Deadline for reduction of GHG levels to 1990 levels AB-32, S-3-05
December 2030 Deadline for reduction of GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels SB-32, B-30-15
December 2050 Deadline for reduction of GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels S-3-05

3. Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program[25] (abbreviated as AFVIP,[26] also known as Fueling Alternatives) is funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), offered throughout the state of California and administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE).[27] A total of $25 million [28] was appropriated to promote the use and production of vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels. Such alternative energy sources include compressed natural gas and electricity via all-electric vehicles and Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).[29][30]

Vehicles using alternative fuels include Global Electric Motorcars, Vectrix, and ZAP vehicles. The 2008 Tesla Roadster and 2008 ZENN neighborhood electric vehicle are also on the list of vehicles eligible for rebates under the Fueling Alternatives.

3.1. PHEV Research Center

The PHEV Research Center was launched with fundings from the California Air Resources Board. Fueling Alternatives includes, among others, Global Electric Motorcars, Vectrix and ZAP vehicles. The 2008 Tesla Roadster and 2008 ZENN neighborhood electric vehicle have been added to the list of vehicles eligible for rebates under the Fueling Alternatives.

3.2. Labeling of New Vehicles for Sale

Since January 2009, all new vehicles sold in California have been required to be labeled with a California Air Resources Board window sticker showing both a Smog Score and a Global Warming Score. The scores are on a 1–10 scale, with 5 being average and with 10 being the best (i.e., emitting the least carbon dioxide). Data comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[31]

4. Funding

In 2018, California spent $1.4 billion raised from its cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, out of $3.4 billion spent cumulatively since 2012; notable projects include California High-Speed Rail and the Clean Vehicle Rebate for low-emission vehicles.[32] Until 2021, the funds are supposed to be used to reduce emissions; however, as of part of the 2019-2020 budget, lawmakers approved a plan to use cap and trade programs for water quality, which raised questions about the connection to global warming.[33]

5. Adaptation Policies

Even as California implements many mitigation policies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the pre-existing effects of climate change continues to impact the region. This can be seen from frequent wildfires, drought and floods. [34] Therefore, the state issued the 2018 update of the Safeguarding California Plan which outlines over 300 ongoing actions by state agencies to reduce the effects of climate change on infrastructure, public safety and the economy.

A few examples of the hundreds of adaptation projects enacted by the state include:

  • enhancing the energy efficiency of public school districts
  • replacing roofs to prevent damage caused by wildfires
  • investing in research on climate change impact models
  • reducing the vulnerability of cities' electrical grids to heat waves
  • reforestation initiatives
  • realigning highways which have been affected by severe coastal erosion; and
  • updating irrigation systems [35]


  1. Board, California Air Resources. "Timeline | AB 32 Scoping Plan Activities" (in en). 
  2. Commission, California Energy. "2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards Approved Computer Compliance Programs" (in en). 
  3. Board, California Air Resources. "Climate Change for Mobile Sources" (in en). 
  4. Board, California Air Resources. "Scoping Plan | California Air Resources Board" (in en). 
  5. California, State of. "EXECUTIVE ORDER B-16-2012 – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr." (in en). 
  6. Board, California Air Resources. "Scoping Plan | California Air Resources Board" (in en). 
  7. Board, California Air Resources. "Scoping Plan | California Air Resources Board" (in en). 
  8. Board, California Air Resources. "Scoping Plan | California Air Resources Board" (in en). 
  9. Documents About Climate Change and California
  10. "SB-1204 California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program.". CA gov.. Retrieved September 22, 2014. 
  11. "Senate Bill No. 1275". 
  12. Gov. Schwarzenegger Announces Executive Order to Begin Implementation of Landmark Greenhouse Gas Legislation; Focuses on Developing Market-Based Solutions
  13. Notice, the final rulemaking package was approved by OAL and filed with the Secretary of the State on September 15, 2005, operative on October 15, 2005 and Final Regulation Order that amends the California Code of Regulations.
  15. EPA Rejects California's Greenhouse Gas Tailpipe Law
  16. Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120 – full text
  17. Ruling helps California battle global warming
  18. Board, California Air Resources. "Assembly Bill 32 - California Global Warming Solutions Act" (in en). 
  19. Board, California Air Resources. "Assembly Bill 32 - California Global Warming Solutions Act" (in en). 
  20. Board, California Air Resources. "Assembly Bill 32 - California Global Warming Solutions Act" (in en). 
  21. Board, California Air Resources. "Assembly Bill 32 - California Global Warming Solutions Act" (in en). 
  22. "SB-32 California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: emissions limit". Retrieved 1 December 2016. 
  23. "AB-197 State Air Resources Board: greenhouse gases: regulations". Retrieved 1 December 2016. 
  24. "Assembly Bill 32 Overview". Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  25. Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Parking Incentive Programs, October 9, 2019
  26. "Alternative Fuel Incentive Program". Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  27. "Center For Sustainability Energy". CCSE. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  28. "ARB Public Meeting For Allocation of $25 Million". Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  29. California Center for Sustainable Energy : Fueling Alternatives Rebate Countdown
  30. California Center for Sustainable Energy : Fueling Alternatives
  31. New Calif. cars to sport greenhouse gas labels: 'Global Warming Score' will show buyers estimated emissions, Associated Press (June 20, 2008).
  32. "Report: Cap-and-trade spending doubles to $1.4 billion in 2018 | California Air Resources Board". 
  33. "Why fighting for clean water with climate change money worries some California lawmakers" (in en-US). 2019-06-17. 
  34. Mann, Michael E.; Gleick, Peter H. (2015-03-31). "Climate change and California drought in the 21st century" (in en). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (13): 3858–3859. doi:10.1073/pnas.1503667112. ISSN 0027-8424. PMID 25829537. PMC 4386383. 
  35. California, State of. "Safeguarding California | California Natural Resources Agency" (in en). 
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