Time for stronger targets: 5 reasons we can do this


Tomorrow, the Air Resources Board (ARB) will hold an informational hearing on the SB 375 regional targets. ClimatePlan supports stronger targets. Regions must -- and can -- do more to reduce greenhouse gases. Here's why.

Here are the hearing details if you can attend:
Thursday December 14, 9:00 a.m.

Location: California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814
Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd Floor

The potential is real

SB 375, passed in 2008, has the potential to significantly reduce California's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and change land use and transportation for the better. Beyond protecting our climate, we can increase affordable housing, encourage sustainable transportation, reduce air pollution, improve public health, and conserve natural and working landscapes.

That's a lot of potential. But how do we get from potential to achievement?

In the nine years since SB 375 passed, the law has changed how the state's regions do their land use and transportation planning. But that change has to keep accelerating. We can't let up. There's too much at stake.

Setting targets to meet the potential

As part of the implementation of SB 375, ARB staff have proposed stronger regional greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

Regional agencies have pushed back, saying those targets are too ambitious.

Despite this, ClimatePlan continues our strong support for stronger targets. Climate change isn't slackening its pace; it's getting more serious more quickly. Our state's leadership in Bonn is making clear that California will continue to lead on climate. We will need stronger targets to achieve our state’s ambitious GHG goals and to make an impact on climate change.

Stronger targets will also make the land use and transportation changes we need to protect natural areas, agricultural land, and make our communities healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable places to live.

We have no time to waste in pursuing these goals.

Here's why we can adopt stronger targets, and we must:

  1. There is new state funding for sustainable transportation.

    New programs created in SB 1, such as the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program, provide new state funds to invest in more sustainable, equitable transportation modes. There is also more funding for the Active Transportation Program -- as well as formula-based programs such as the State Transportation Improvement Program -- to fund walking and bicycling projects that reduce GHG emissions and improve public health. Finally, Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) programs like the Transit and Intercity Rail Program, Transformative Climate Communities, and the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program -- as well as the Volkswagen settlement -- provide still more opportunities. Regional agencies can leverage these programs with other investments.

  2. More transparency is needed around regional transportation funding decisions.

    It could be very helpful for regional agencies, stakeholders, and state agencies to re-evaluate how regional transportation funding is being spent. For one thing, this might identify discretionary sources of funding. More importantly, it could catalyze a larger effort to ensure that state transportation funds are actually being spent in ways that align with state sustainability goals. Despite SB 375's goals, the Regional Transportation Improvement Programs in many Regional Transportation Plans continue to prioritize projects like building and widening freeways and roads, instead of building the sustainable transportation systems we need. Re-evaluating these funding strategies could help regional agencies find flexibility in their funding allocations and start a process to re-prioritize their project lists to advance sustainable transportation. 

  3. Regions can do more on land conservation -- a powerful way to reduce emissions.

    As the recent Nature Conservancy report Sustainable Communities Strategies and Conservation points out, “a growing body of research shows that conservation is essential to achieving GHG reductions.” Land-use changes from natural and working lands could help us achieve even greater GHG reductions, and further close the gap identified in the staff report. Not only do protected lands absorb carbon, their protection prevents sprawl development, which increases VMT and GHG. Regions should look at the opportunity to conserve more lands to meet their targets, protecting natural areas and farmland and using infill development to invest in existing communities.

  4. Stronger targets can and should come with strong anti-displacement strategies.

    Regional agencies and ARB should take bold action to ensure two things: 1) that the focused growth needed to achieve higher targets does not fuel displacement for low-income residents and, more broadly, 2) that SB 375 strategies provide meaningful improvements in the lives of low-income residents. One good strategy would be for ARB to develop an anti-displacement action plan similar to the Plan Bay Area 2040 Action Plan, developed by MTC and ABAG. The Bay Area plan identifies the commitments that MTC and ABAG have already made towards increasing housing affordability and preventing displacement, and outlines new strategies for the region to pursue. ARB should also help implement the strategies from the recent UC Berkeley & UCLA report, "Developing a new methodology for analyzing displacement," on ways MPOs and local entities can increase affordable housing, prevent displacement, and maximize GHG reduction.

  5. Low-income communities of color need stronger targets.

    The people who will suffer the most from lower targets are residents of low-income communities of color.

    These communities rank in the top 10% of the most impacted census tracts statewide, due in large part to their proximity to freeways and other inadequate and inequitable transportation planning. People living in these communities experience higher rates of exposure to traffic pollution, which leads to more asthma attacks and higher rates of chronic diseases. They suffer the greatest risks from freeway pollution, and yet are the greatest users of public transit. People in these communities need an efficient, accessible, and affordable transit system to earn a living, to take care of their families, and to stay healthy. Stronger targets can provide communities with transportation systems that are useful resources, not sources of contamination and sickness.

    We recommend ARB hold environmental justice communities at the center of the target setting process, for these communities will be the first to feel the successes or the failures of its results.

We encourage you to attend the ARB board meeting on Thursday December 14. Share these points -- and any of your own -- and let ARB board members know that we need stronger targets.

We have to aim for targets that actually achieve our goals. Only then can we achieve the potential that's at stake for our communities, our climate, and our future.


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