California's Global Warming Solutions Act

Next steps: Timely implementation of AB 32

Getting the policies of this landmark law right will ensure the greatest environmental and economic benefits.

Environmental Defense Fund co-sponsored California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), landmark legislation that set an absolute statewide limit on greenhouse gas emissions.

The law confirmed California's commitment to transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy, helped put climate change front and center on the national agenda and spurred similar action by states and regions across the United States.

What must be done and how

AB 32 requires California to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the equivalent of taking approximately 15 million cars off the nation's roads. To meet reduction targets, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the lead agency responsible for implementing the act, is following a blueprint known as the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan. The plan lays out the strategy and a comprehensive set of actions including:

  • Expanding and strengthening energy efficiency programs and building and appliance standards.

  • Achieving a statewide renewable energy mix of 33% by 2020.

  • Developing a California cap-and-trade program that links with other Western Climate Initiative partner programs to create a regional market system.

  • Establishing targets for transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions for regions throughout California, and pursuing policies and incentives to achieve those targets.

  • Adopting and implementing direct measures to reduce emissions and protect public health, including California's clean car standards, goods movement measures and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Guaranteeing sound policy decisions

EDF has been working towards full implementation of AB 32 since it worked closely with CARB to develop and adopt a blueprint for climate action in California, known as the AB 32 Scoping Plan, in 2008. One major element of the AB 32 Scoping Plan is an economy wide cap-and-trade regulation.

After a comprehensive rule-making process, CARB began enforcing the AB 32 cap-and-trade program in January of 2013. In close collaboration with CARB and stakeholders across the state, EDF is working to ensure that AB 32 cap-and-trade implementation continues to go smoothly.

As of January 2013, over 300 major polluters in California face emissions reductions obligations under the “cap,” and in 2015, the program’s size will double to include transportation fuels and natural gas. EDF continues to play a focal role in building and sustaining overall public and political support and momentum for the law. We are providing CARB with expertise so that policies maximize environmental and economic benefits, create long-term investments in California communities and protect communities from disproportionate environmental or economic impacts.

The California climate success story is underway: the state has experienced record clean tech venture capital investment and green jobs are growing at ten times the rate of jobs in other sectors of the economy since AB 32 passed. Through sound policy decisions and smart market-based solutions, California continues to be the most meaningful stage for climate action in the world. AB 32 policies build on lessons learned from other environmental pioneers, and are designed to harmonize with and complement national and international climate change policies as they emerge.