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California proposes to keep cap-and-trade to hit greenhouse gas emissions goals

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California proposes to keep cap-and-trade to hit greenhouse gas emissions goals

To get California's greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, the California Air Resources Board is proposing to continue the state's cap-and-trade program and take a new path toward cutting emissions at refineries.

CARB's proposal, released Jan. 20, touts steps that California has already taken to reduce emissions and notes that future efforts will require contributions from all sectors of the economy. To hit the emissions reduction target called for by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2015 and later codified in Senate Bill 32, the proposal would keep California's cap-and-trade program through 2030 and take a new approach to cut greenhouse gases from refineries by 20%.

CARB said reaching the 2030 target will require more focus on zero- and near-zero emission vehicle technologies, continued investment in renewable energy, more use of low-carbon fuels, and integrated land conservation and development strategies. Also needed, according to CARB, is a coordinated effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants like methane, black carbon and fluorinated gases, and more focus on integrated land-use planning.

"The plan will help us meet both our climate and our clean air goals in the coming decades and provide billions of dollars in investments to cut greenhouse gases, smog and toxic pollution in disadvantaged communities throughout the state," CARB Chair Mary Nichols said. "It is also designed to continue to drive creative innovation, generating good new jobs in the growing clean technology sector."

The plan has been in the works for months. CARB released a discussion draft in December 2016.

While the plan examined alternatives like a carbon tax, an analysis found that cap-and-trade is the lowest cost, most efficient policy approach and provides certainty that California will meet the 2030 goals even if other measures fall short, CARB said.

The plan noted that the refinery sector includes some of the largest stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions and is also tied to transportation, the largest economic sector of such emissions. The CARB proposal would require all refineries to become more efficient through a combination of actions like fuel switching, boiler electrification, and investment in newer, more energy efficient technologies.

A series of public hearings are slated to begin Jan. 27. Comments are due March 6, with a final plan set for release later that month. CARB will consider approving the plan in late April.