Update: Air Resources Board’s next steps

Good news! The state’s Air Resources Board has outlined a plan that should result in meaningful updates to regional greenhouse-gas reduction targets. At its meeting on October 24, the Board ultimately supported the direction outlined in the staff report. (This blog post offers more background.)

Here’s the upshot:

Better targets, sooner:
In the first round of Sustainable Communities Strategies, many of the state’s smaller regions were given greenhouse-gas reduction targets that were too low, too inaccurate, or both. ARB will likely update these targets in time for these regions’ next Sustainable Communities Strategies (Round 2). With most smaller regions overshooting their early “placeholder” targets, we believe an update in Round 2 is important to maintain this progress.

Larger regions, which generally had stronger targets and plans to reach them, will not have to update their targets until the third round of SCSs. This will allow time for a more comprehensive and scientific process to make sure the updated targets will actually meet the state’s climate goals.

Need to reduce emissions, reduce driving:
We will continue to push ARB to make sure that:
– All the targets result in meeting the state’s climate goals.
– Greenhouse-gas reductions come from reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

We were heartened to hear Board member Supervisor John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor, call on ARB to set “aggressive goals.” The staff report also calls for tightening the methodology, which should mean that policy changes are necessary to meet the targets. That is, it should not be possible to reach the targets by just changing the assumptions in the model.

San Joaquin Valley pressure:
The Board maintained its pressure on the San Joaquin Valley to do more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions with better land use and transportation. The Board left open the possibility of updating the Valley’s targets in time for the region’s second Sustainable Communities Strategy. This update will be informed by the comprehensive review of Valley RTPs (Regional Transportation Plans) that ARB is undertaking now.

Finding funding:
A key focus of the Board discussion and testimony from the Metropolitan Planning Organization staff was the need for more funding for sustainable communities. ARB discussed efforts to use cap-and-trade funds to implement Sustainable Communities Strategies.

Board Member Dan Sperling also made the excellent suggestion that other state funding should reward regions that have strong SCSs and are achieving their targets. We certainly agree.

Best practices, broader benefits:
As we and the staff report recommended, ARB will now do two important things:
– Highlight the best practices that emerged from the historic first round of Sustainable Communities Strategies.
– Support work to measure the health, equity, and conservation benefits of good planning, in addition to greenhouse-gas reductions.

Shout-out to advocates:
The Air Resources Board even had a special message for SB 375 advocates and supporters. Dr. Alexander Sherriffs spoke to the community conversation change that had occurred. Board Chair Mary Nichols said (starting around 2:33:40 here):

“I really want to congratulate all of the groups who came here to present testimony… I hope you realize that you have had an impact, and if any of the funders of your groups are listening to this broadcast, I hope they’re hearing it too, because we really have come a long way over the past couple of years.”

We add our thanks and congratulations to all our partners who made the trip out to Diamond Bar to testify: the American Lung Association in California, the Coalition for Clean Air, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Fresno Metro Ministry, and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. We’re committed to keeping up the good work with you!

Stay tuned:
The Air Resources Board’s next discussion of SB 375 will be at its January 29-30 hearing in Sacramento.

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