EHS Administration, Regulatory Developments, Sustainability

CARB Releases Draft Scoping Plan

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update for public comment on May 10, 2022.

These updates describe the state’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are required every 5 years under Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The state’s current reduction goals are to achieve at least a 40 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

“What this means for California is an ambitious and aggressive approach to squeezing the carbon out of every sector of the economy, setting us on course for a more equitable and sustainable future in the face of the greatest existential threat we face, and ensuring that those who benefit from this transformation include those communities now hardest hit by the ongoing use of fossil fuels,” states the Draft Plan. “The combustion of these fuels has polluted our air, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, for far too long, and is the root cause of climate change. This Draft Scoping Plan helps us chart the path to a future where race is no longer a predictor of disproportionate burdens from harmful air pollution and climate impacts.”

In developing the Draft Plan, CARB evaluated four scenarios to achieve its GHG goals and carbon neutrality, reports Latham & Watkins, LLP:

  • “Scenario 1: Achieves carbon neutrality by 2035 by almost completely phasing out fossil fuel combustion with a limited role for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and engineered carbon removal, and no new dairy digesters or landfill methane capture
  • Scenario 2: Achieves carbon neutrality by 2035 with aggressive deployment of a full suite of technology and energy options, including CCS and other engineered carbon removal
  • Scenario 3: Achieves carbon neutrality by 2045 by deploying a broad portfolio of existing and emerging fossil fuel alternatives and clean technologies
  • Scenario 4: Achieves carbon neutrality by 2045 with a slower deployment of a broad portfolio of existing and emerging fossil fuel alternatives and a higher reliance on [carbon dioxide (CO2)] removal technologies”

It ultimately chose Scenario 3 to achieve “the balance of cost-effectiveness, health benefits, and technological feasibility” to meet the state’s targets.

To do so, the state plans to:

  • Rapidly move to zero-emission transportation by electrifying the cars, buses, trains, and trucks that now constitute California’s single-largest source of planet-warming pollution.
  • Phase out the use of fossil gas used for heating homes and buildings.
  • Clamp down on chemicals and refrigerants that are thousands of times more powerful at trapping heat than CO2.
  • Provide communities with sustainable options for walking, biking, and public transit so that people do not have to rely on a car.
  • Continue to build out the solar arrays, wind turbine capacity, and other resources that provide clean, renewable energy to displace fossil fuel-fired electrical generation.
  • Scale up new options such as green hydrogen for hard-to-electrify end uses and renewable gas where needed.

The Draft Plan also calls for protecting the state’s forests, croplands, wetlands, and other lands, as they play a vital role in storing carbon. The plan acknowledges the negative impact climate change is having on these resources by noting increased and larger wildfires in 2020 and 2021, an ongoing “megadrought,” and more extreme heat.

To respond to these threats, according to a Lexology article by Latham & Watkins, the Draft Plan includes the following strategies:

  • “Treating 2–2.5 million acres of forests, shrublands/chaparral, and grasslands annually with regionally specific management strategies, including prescribed fires, thinning, harvesting, and other management actions. The Draft Scoping Plan anticipates that these activities will restore health and resilience to overstocked forests, prevent carbon losses from severe wildfire, reduce health costs related to wildfire emissions, and improve water quantity and quality.
  • Implementing ‘climate smart’ practices, land easements, and conservation annually for certain crops and increasing organic agriculture to 20% of all cultivated acres by 2045. The Draft Scoping Plan indicates that these measures can increase soil water holding capacity while also reducing pesticide use.
  • In developed areas, increasing urban forestry investments by 20% above current levels and utilizing tree watering that is 30% less sensitive to drought. The Draft Scoping Plan indicates that these measures would increase urban tree canopy and shade cover while reducing heat island effects and supporting water infrastructure. The Draft Scoping Plan also notes that urban greening can also reduce fire risk by providing defensible space.”

In addition, the Draft Plan commits to researching, developing, and deploying “additional methods of capturing CO2 that include pulling it from the smokestacks of facilities, or drawing it out of the atmosphere itself and then safely and permanently storing it.”

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