Climate Change

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LWVC Climate Change Action Policy (Adopted by the board of directors March 26, 2017)

UPDATE! Success: Cap and Trade Is Extended!

California lawmakers extended cap and trade to 2030 with the passage of AB 398 in a 2/3 bipartisan vote on July 17. Cap and trade had been otherwise set to expire in 2020. We worked hard for the passage of AB 398 and for its companion legislation, AB 617 (improve air quality).

In our lobbying efforts, we wrote a letter of support and co-signed another with like-minded organizations. We also personally lobbied targeted legislators (all of whom voted yes). Earlier we had supported AB 378 which failed in the Assembly. AB 398 and AB 617 were derived from AB 378. We had been watching and studying the proposed bills and the arguments for and against, and once the language of the two bills was released, we decided on our position.

There was concern from some environmental organizations that AB 398 was a “giveaway” to oil interests because it restricts local air districts from regulating carbon dioxide. The restriction is only on carbon dioxide, which is already covered by cap and trade. The legislation does not limit authority of air districts on emissions of any pollutant other than carbon dioxide.

In League tradition, we make our decisions based on our own study and understanding of the issues and the proposed legislation.  In this case, we do not agree with the claims that this is a giveaway to the oil industry, because the basic regulations over emissions, refineries, etc. are still intact, and the incentives through cap and trade on carbon dioxide will work their way to the targeted carbon emission reductions.

Further, benefits of the legislation outweigh any doubts. AB 398 eliminates the uncertainty around whether cap and trade will continue beyond 2020. Cap and trade is an excellent method to reduce emissions. Not only is it effective, but it is the lowest cost alternative as described by the World Bank. Further, in their scoping plan, the California Air Resources Board shows that we will not meet our 2030 goal of 40% below 1990 emissions by 2030 unless we have cap and trade. Finally, other benefits added to AB 398 include further oversight, education and training, mitigation of negative impacts, and reduction in offsets.

The 2/3 vote by which AB 398 passed is important. Cap and trade in California has been hampered by litigation claiming that cap and trade is a tax and therefore needs a 2/3 vote. That was not the case with authorizing legislation – AB 32 (2006). With the current 2/3 vote, the argument is moot.

AB 617, the companion bill to AB 398, increases monitoring of pollutants and toxic contaminants not covered by cap and trade and requires installation of retrofit technology for sources not in compliance. It will both improve air quality and go a long way to addressing our concerns about public health impacts on low-income and minority communities with increased documentation and community-level plans, and even greater ability to address health issues.

There will always be tradeoffs in legislation, and disagreements as to purpose and outcomes perceived. LWVC feels confident in our support of AB 398 and AB 617 which are well within our established League positions.
-- Diz Swift, LWVC Climate Change Program Director

Background

The League of Women Voters has been at the forefront of the environmental protection movement for decades, consistently supporting legislation to preserve our nation’s natural resources and protect our public health and safety. We support legislation that seeks to protect our country from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity. Global climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our generation.
 
The LWVUS, in response to the growing concern about climate change and its impact on the environment, created a Climate Change Task Force in 2006 to provide information and assistance to the national board and staff and to develop materials for use by League members at the local, state and national levels. The task force developed and maintains a Climate Change Toolkit. 
 
Greenhouse gases are a pollutant. In a 5-4 decision in April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases meet the definition of "air pollutants" under the Clean Air Act of 1970.
 
California plays an important role in the climate change discussion, and what this state does is crucial. California produces  seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gases (GHG) and is in 18th place in global emissions of GHG among countries (2013). 
 
California is also playing a leadership role in reducing emissions, and regions within the state and local communities are taking steps to minimize the impacts of climate change by adoption of Climate Action Plans, Regional Climate Plans, and Sustainability Strategies, addressing sea level rise, and creating Adaption and Resiliency (Readiness) Plans.
 
Along with national League positions, LWVC positions on Air Quality, Energy, Land Use, and Transportation and the Growth Management and Sustainable Communities Action Policies all work together to support action.
 
This LWVC Climate Change Action Policy is designed for use by California state and local Leagues and Inter-League Organizations (ILOs) to guide specific action and education at their respective levels.
 

LWVC Climate Change Action Policy

The League of Women Voters of California supports actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in order to protect our state from the negative physical, economic, and public health effects. Local Leagues and ILOs are urged to engage at their local and regional levels. Our actions are to:
 
a. Promote energy conservation and efficiency in transportation, buildings, and infrastructure, including energy efficiency standards and land use policies that reduce vehicle miles travelled.
b. Promote carbon pricing by market mechanisms such as  cap and trade systems and carbon taxes. 
c. Promote a clean, low-carbon energy economy that is sustainable, including all forms of renewable energy and transportation infrastructure.
d. Promote policies that mitigate impacts of climate change by adaptation in urban, rural, agricultural, and natural settings.
e. Promote basic research and technology development, encouraging the use of a portfolio of technologies.
f. Promote solutions that ease consequences of climate-related hardships to low and moderate income households.
g. Promote public access and involvement in the decision-making process.

Justification for Climate Change Action Policy Elements

This section specifies national and state League positions that justify elements of the proposed Action Policy. The full position statements are given in the LWVUS publication Impact on Issues and the LWVC publication Action Policies and Positions.
 

LWVUS Positions

The League’s position is to preserve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the ecosystem, with maximum protection of public health and the environment. Climate change is, by far, the greatest challenge to the balance of our ecosystem.
 
NATURAL RESOURCES OVERARCHING POSITION STATEMENT:  
Promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.
 
Natural Resources:  Promote the management of natural resources as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems.
Resource Management: Promote resource conservation, stewardship and long-range planning, with the responsibility for managing natural resources shared by all levels of government. 
 
Environmental Protection and Pollution Control:  Preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem, with maximum protection of public health and the environment. 
Air Quality. Promote measures to reduce pollution from mobile and stationary sources. 
Energy. Support environmentally sound policies that reduce energy growth rates, emphasize energy conservation and encourage the use of renewable resources. 
Land Use. Promote policies that manage land as a finite resource and that incorporate principles of stewardship. 
 
Public Participation:  Promote public understanding and participation in decision making as essential elements of responsible and responsive management of our natural resources. 
 
The League supports legislative solutions, including setting caps on greenhouse gas pollution, putting a price on GHG pollution, encouraging conservation and renewable energy, and investing in a new clean energy economy. In 2008, the LWVUS called on Congress to enact legislation to significantly cut the greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming and supported increased energy efficiency and a shift to a clean, renewable energy. We supported the 2015 Clean Power Plan. 
 
The resolve of the membership as expressed at recent LWVUS Conventions strongly supports action on climate change. At the 2014 Convention, a resolution promoting a price on carbon emissions was passed by a large margin. Delegates to the 2016 Convention passed a resolution stating that “the LWVUS should continue working for full implementation of the EPA Clean Power Plan, especially at the state level, as a first step and should call on the White House to implement an updated science-based Climate Action Plan that stabilizes global warming by bringing C02 levels down to no more than 350 ppm by 2100.”
 

LWVC Positions and Action Policies

At the state level, the League of Women Voters of California has adopted positions on clean air, renewable energy, land conservation, and transportation solutions. Based on these existing positions, we have advocated for climate change legislation and administrative actions. Throughout all positions, we call for public information and the opportunity for citizens to participate in the decision-making process.
 
Air Quality Position in Brief (1971/73):  The League supports measures to establish air quality standards that will protect the public health and welfare, and the development of effective enforcement and implementation procedures at each level of government to attain these standards. 
 
Summary of Air Quality positions applicable to climate change: We support setting air quality standards at the state level that may be stricter than national standards; support lower levels of government in the enforcement of the standards and encourage a program of educating and instructing the public. We believe that the cost of converting industry from polluting to nonpolluting practices should be borne primarily by industry. We encourage the establishment of a well developed mass transit system designed to reduce automobile travel.
 
Energy Position in Brief (1978/80; 2006/07): The League supports development of a state energy policy that will ensure reliability of energy resources and protection of the environment and public health and safety, at reasonable customer rates, giving primary consideration to conservation and energy efficiency. State government should provide an efficient, coordinated energy administrative structure with open transparent procedures.
 
Summary of Energy positions applicable to climate change: State agencies should give primary consideration to conservation and energy efficiency. In acquiring new electric resources, major additional factors to consider include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and development and deployment of renewable resources. Statewide standards should be set for renewable resource development and use economic/market and other incentives to foster renewable energy, conservation, demand-side management and greenhouse gas reductions. Decisions at the regional level should incorporate participation by local governments. Local governments should promote energy conservation, especially in relation to building codes, transportation, resource recovery, and public information. Any direct-access (choice of a provider) policy should not result in additional cost to the remaining core customers.
 
Land Use Position in Brief (1975): The League supports state land use planning that recognizes land as a resource as well as a commodity. The state should establish guidelines and standards for land areas of more than local concern. Decisions for these areas should be made at the lowest level of government feasible, but should be subject to state review. Citizens must have a meaningful participation in land use planning and regulation.
 
Summary of Land Use positions applicable to climate change: State policies, guidelines, and standards should be developed for land areas such as fragile or historic lands, renewable resource lands, natural hazard lands, and land impacted by public investment. State land use planning should be part of an integrated overall state planning effort, with environmental, social and economic impact statements required on major developments.
 
Transportation Position in Brief (1981/85, 1991): The League supports a transportation system to move people and goods that includes a variety of transportation modes, with emphasis on increased public transportation services and other viable alternatives to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT); is efficient, convenient, and cost effective; is safe and secure; serves all segments of the population and diverse geographic needs; minimizes harmful effects on the environment; is integrated with land use; and is supported by extensive public education. 
 
Summary of Transportation positions applicable to climate change: Transportation and land use planning should be integrated to promote reduced vehicle miles traveled through a jobs/housing balance and requirements that land use development facilitate use of transit and other alternatives to single occupant vehicles. Planning for transportation should promote strategies to influence travel behavior, such as fees, taxes, and tolls, combined with mitigation measures for low income persons. 
 
Sustainable Communities Action Policy (1999): 
 
Definition: Sustainable communities recognize their interdependence with the global community and seek to meet current economic, environmental, and social demands through equitable and democratic means without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs . . . the full social and environmental costs of production, provision, and disposal of goods and services are acknowledged . . . . 
 
General Statement: Sustainability refers to the dynamic among ecological, economic, and social systems on a global scale. It demands consideration of the interactions among positions in different program areas. League positions speak of preservation and conservation, of stewardship, of considering long term benefits and meeting future
needs. 
 
Principles of sustainability are reflected in most program areas, although often they are implicit rather than explicit:
 
With respect to government, positions support policies that promote equity, flexibility, and responsibility so that democratic government is encouraged and protected.
 
With respect to natural resources, positions support protection and wise management in the public interest to promote an environment beneficial to life.
 
With respect to social policy, positions promote the equity, justice, education, and nurturing essential to a sustainable society.
 
Growth Management Action Policy (1992): In summary, this LWVC policy seeks to promote management of growth and land use at the level of impact on systems, whether local, regional, or statewide. Impacts include natural resources, air quality, energy, land use, waste management and water resources. League positions mentioned in the policy that are pertinent to climate change include:
  • Recognition of land as a resource as well as a commodity (LWVC--Land Use)
  • Identification and regulation of land areas such as fragile or historic lands, renewable resource lands (LWVC--Land Use #1), including the long-term protection of land appropriate for agriculture (LWVC--Agriculture); natural hazard lands and lands impacted by public investment (LWVC--Land Use #1)
  • Environmental social and economic impact statements on major developments, public and private (LWVC--Land Use #2b)
  • Integration of transportation and land use planning to promote reduced vehicle miles travelled through a jobs/housing balance and requirements that land use development facilitate use of transit and other alternatives to single-occupant vehicles (LWVC--Transportation #1)
  • Growth management decisions should relate to and protect the overall quality of the environment.

LWVC History of Support for Climate Change Legislation

The state of California has taken meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the LWVC has supported many of these actions. 
 
The Renewables Portfolio Standard Program (AB 1078, 2002, and later amendments) required that renewables make up 20 percent of the state’s electricity mix by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020. As of 2017, the state is on target to meet these goals.
 
The California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, 2006) set as law that 2020 greenhouse gas emissions could not exceed 1990 levels. The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375, 2008) required regional GHG emission reduction targets for cars and light trucks, and coordinated land use, transportation, and housing decisions to help achieve the target. In 2011, based on the market mechanism provided in AB 32, Cap and Trade set a declining cap on allowed GHG emissions. Beginning in 2013 the largest carbon emitters were required to meet the caps or buy credits. In 2012 the Advanced Clean Cars Standard set GHG standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. Governor Brown announced an Executive Order (B3015) on April 29, 2015, setting many of the targets that would be enacted in the 2015-2016 legislative session.
 
SB 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reducation Act of 2015, requires that 50 percent of our electricity come from renewable energy sources and a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030. A proposed requirement of a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use for transportation by 2030 was removed from the bill in order to obtain passage. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has introduced a new element into the existing Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program to address some of the petroleum reduction that was deleted from SB 350, under authority of the original AB 32. 
 
SB 32 of 2016 extends the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) beyond 2020. It increases the goal for greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030. A companion 2016 bill, AB 197, directs the CARB to prioritize measures that result in direct reductions in emissions from major sources. It further establishes a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies and adds two members of the legislature to CARB as nonvoting members. It also includes use of social costs in evaluating the cost-effectiveness of emission reduction measures to better account for the full array of costs and benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
 

Vote Climate

Climate change is now. Heat records are being broken, glaciers are melting, and the seas are rising. We have reached a point where no matter what we do; we cannot avoid a very different climate future.

And the choices are quickly becoming limited. We must act now to prevent truly catastrophic consequences. But what can we do? The most powerful action is our knowledgeable vote.

California Legislative Action

A critical issue in the 2015-2017 legislative session is the need for further action on climate change, beginning with Governor Brown’s State of the State address in January 2015 and continuing with several ambitious bill proposals.

SB 350 (de León and Leno) passed and was signed by the Governor in October 2015. League members fought hard to pass SB 350, which drew some of the strongest fire of the session. The oil industry spent millions to influence business-friendly Democrats to oppose SB 350’s requirement of a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use for transportation by 2030, and in the end that provision was removed from the bill. Even with that setback, though, SB 350 is an enormously important bill requiring 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources and a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030.

Read our fact sheet and joint letter of support for SB 350.

SB 32 (Pavley) was passed by the Legislature in late August 2016 and is on the Governor's desk. He has said he will sign. SB 32 extends the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) beyond 2020. It increases the goal for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030, accelerating the reduction from the AB 32 goal of reaching 1990 levels by 2020. It also retains elements in AB 32 to reach the goal, such as cap and trade, incentives, and other mechanisms.

Support for SB 32:

  • The League of Women Voters recognizes that climate change is real and that its effects are already being seen. This is a critical issue facing our planet that needs to be seriously addressed. California has been a leader in this area, but with impacts here in California and elsewhere ever more apparent, it is prudent and timely to chart a long-term path for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • We support SB 32 by Senator Pavley. SB 32 will set a greenhouse gas emission level of 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030. It ensures that AB 32, the landmark law to reduce California’s climate pollution, extends beyond 2020, and it codifies executive orders setting target dates and pollution reduction levels.
  • We previously endorsed AB 32 (2006), the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which set targets for reducing GHG emissions to1990 levels by 2020. California is on the path to meet this goal, but further emission reductions are needed. SB 32 is consistent with Executive Order S-3-05, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, and Governor Brown's recently issued Executive Order B-30-15. However, these policies need to be placed into law.
  • Polling from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) indicates that 68 percent of Californians support SB 32. California's climate and clean energy policies are boosting our economy, expanding opportunities, and improving public health. By 2025, the state's clean transportation policies will save Californians over $8 billion on health care costs due to fewer asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiac hospitalizations, and premature deaths from poor air quality.
  • Because of California’s successful climate and clean energy policies, we are well on our way to meeting the Clean Power Plan targets announced by President Obama in early August 2015.

Read a letter of support and our fact sheet for SB 32.

AB 197 (E. Garcia) is a companion bill to SB 32; neither will be enacted unless both are. This bill also passed in the Legislature and is on the Governor's desk. He is expected to sign both SB 32 and AB 197. AB 197 directs the California Air Resources Board to prioritize measures that result in direct reductions in emissions from major sources. It further establishes a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies and adds two members of the legislature to the Air Resources Board as nonvoting members. It also includes use of social costs in evaluating the cost-effectiveness of emission reduction measures to better account for the full array of costs and benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

California’s Past Legislative Actions

California has taken meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Renewables Portfolio Standard Program (2002, amended in 2003-2004) requires that renewables make up 20 percent of the state’s electricity mix by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020.

Efforts were accelerated with the 2006 landmark legislation, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). This set as law that 2020 greenhouse gas emissions could not exceed 1990 levels. In 2008 the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375) required regional GHG emission reduction targets for cars and light trucks, and coordinates land use, transportation, and housing decisions to help achieve the target. In 2011, Cap and Trade set a declining cap on allowed GHG emissions. Beginning in 2013 the largest carbon emitters will be required to meet the caps or buy credits. In 2012 the Advanced Clean Cars Standard set GHG standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. And, California is on track to meet the ambitious AB 32 goals.

Act Locally

Climate change is a global problem, but effective action requires nothing short of a cultural change. Key priorities for action are:

  • Energy efficiency standards for transportation and the electric grid
  • Global price on GHG emissions to put the market economy to work and spur the growth of a clean energy economy
  • Plans to adapt to climate change.

Education and Advocacy

We critically need an informed electorate to drive the political will that is essential to make the necessary changes. Resources for education and advocacy are available and growing.

A good place to start is the LWVUS Toolkit for Climate Action which provides ideas and step-by-step plans for advocacy and action.

Find out how your legislators voted on key environmental issues, and how candidates responded to Voter's Edge California/Smart Voter questions.

Publish articles in your Voter, write letters to the editor and submit editorials to your local paper.

Climate Action Plans

Get involved with your local climate action plan, or initiate development of a plan. Some examples of plans are Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Benicia, San Rafael, Antioch, Los Angeles, San Diego, and the University of California. Also get involved with adaption strategies for climate change – how we will deal with the changes.

Contact your local League to learn more and become active in your area.

Priorities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

Energy Efficiency Zero cost – puts money in consumers’ pockets

  • Energy use: vehicles, aviation, buildings, infrastructure
  • Energy transport: transmission, Unified National Smart Grid
  • Energy efficiency standards (e.g. aggressive mileage standards)

Global Price on GHG Emissions Put the market economy to work

  • Carbon tax, charge or fee, cap and trade (or auction), carbon offsets with strong controls
  • Government cannot be exempt from GHG limits and prices

Clean Energy Economy Opportunity for jobs

  • Renewable generation – solar, wind, tides, new ideas
  • Standards for biofuels
  • Enforceable limits, real goals (e.g. 100% clean energy in 10 years)
  • Clean energy transportation infrastructure

Portfolio of Technologies Research underlies progress

  • Government support – incentives (or disincentives), funding, tax credits, market creation

Our Personal Choices Resources are finite

  • Build a new social norm – move away from consumerism, excess
  • Use less, buy locally, reuse/recycle

A Global Solution Alone we make little difference

  • Common global goal, developed countries lead the way
  • Fair and sustainable global burden-sharing
  • Peace reduces greenhouse gases
  • Protect biodiversity; enhance climate-friendly agriculture and land-use practices

Adaptations to Climate Change Ease Consequences

  • Ease consequences of climate related hardship to low income households
Additional materials: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon SB 350 fact sheet301.06 KB
PDF icon Fact sheet for SB 32301.86 KB