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Cheers and applause at the BAAQMD Board Meeting upon passing the Climate Protection Resolution
On Wednesday, a little piece of climate protection history was made-a potential game changer. With congressional gridlock, one regional regulatory agency has just declared that they are going to hit the ball over the fence.

The Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) unanimously resolved to commit the San Francisco Bay Area to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).  Air Districts in California are a different kind of player. They can enforce regulations more stringent than state or Federal limits, and can directly charge polluters. This resolution has TEETH.

Let that sink in a little...  Without any other legislation or authorization, this Air District is going to develop a plan and enforce a series of actions that will transform at least 80% of the stationary energy infrastructure in the nine county area within 4 decades.  It will be no small feat. The region has a GDP of $535 billion (in 2011), which would rank 19th among countries. The Bay Area emits about 100 million metric tons of GHGs per year, more than many countries, including Sweden, Portugal, Israel and Ireland.

Accomplishing the 2050 goal of 17.6 million tons per year will be an exemplar extrordinaire of decarbonizing our society, and it can be done.  Game on, Bay Area!

Click below the fold to see how it could work and how the resolution came about through grassroots work...

Where AB32 Leaves Off…
California famously is instituting a Cap and Trade program and is state-wide on track to reduce heat trapping emissions to its 1990 levels by 2020, in line with the AB32 law adopted in 2006. But the state only has an executive order “goal” (credit to Schwarzenegger) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – no law supports it. This 2050 target is a good one for climate protection, though there are indications it will not be sufficient given the derth of global emission reductions currently.  Politically, it is a viable goal.

State of California 2020 Goal (AB32) and 2050 Goal (no legislation)
Why an Air District Resolution Was Needed
The Air District’s Mission is literally, “To protect and improve public health, air quality, and the global climate.”  Many cities and counties have Climate Action Plans (CAP’s) with significant emission goals.  As the Resolution states, a number of Bay Area local governments have good goals:
The counties of Alameda and San Francisco have adopted goals of reducing GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and many other jurisdictions, including Contra Costa County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and the cities of Berkeley, Burlingame, Daly City, Hayward, Millbrae, San Jose, San Mateo and San Rafael, have adopted goals of reducing GHG emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, through their adoption of the Sierra Club Cool Cities and Cool Counties resolutions
However, city and county powers are limited --often to just land use and whatever utilities are within their control. Funding is, well, problematic. They are not set up to monitor and charge polluters, nor deal with anything beyond their borders.  

There simply was no significant regional climate plan.    The Air District passed a general resolution in 2005 to establish,

a Bay Area Climate Protection Program to address climate change climate protection through District activities  including outreach and educational campaigns, data collection, and analysis, technical assistance, have  a regional conference on climate protection, and support and leadership for local efforts in the Bay Area to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
But this had no measurable goals.  While the resulting program included a first-in-the-nation GHG pollution permit fee of 4.8 cents per ton of CO2, the few million dollars collected from that have had minimal measurable effect on emissions.  Refineries and other major carbon polluters are routinely freely granted carbon pollution permits.

The NorCal Dirty Oil Refining Binge
Speaking of refineries, this region that is known for high tech, Silicon Valley, environmentalism, organic foods, wineries and tourism is also a fuel depot for California and the world.

It has 5 major refineries, processing 36% of the state’s fossil fuel capacity, and spewing some 40% of its industrial/commercial carbon pollution.  It’s going international, since California demand is down - the Bay Area had “$7.8 billion in oil exports in 2010, more than any other metro area in the country”.  

The refineries are gearing up for more and dirtier crudes including Canadian tar sands and shale oil from North Dakota.
Don’t forget California’s own sulfur-laden Monterrey shale oil, now that fracking is greenlighted, thanks to SB4.  All this points to more and more carbon pollution, when we need to be reducing it.

How the Resolution was made
Air District Board unanimous decision was unopposed and almost undramatic.  The 22-member Board of Directors is made up of elected officials (county supervisors, mayors and city council members) from the 9 counties. Their awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis made it a no-brainer. But it took some ground work to get a good resolution to a vote.

While sought for years by an Air District Supervising Engineer, Janet Stromberg, the specific grassroots effort started a year ago when the fledgling 350 Bay Area group (separate but inspired by held its first general public meeting and called for a “Carbon Fee” campaign.  The 20 or so folks interested formed the Bay Climate Action Plan (BayCAP) Team, and strategized on what it would take to get the Air District to actually start significantly reducing emissions.

This campaign is unique.  Protests and even letter-writing campaigns weren’t needed. It has a specific target:  the Air District Board. It needed to deal with the Air District staff which has its own character.  It is a technical arena with a strong Bay Area political context.  The campaign found its champion in the new Climate Protection Committee Chair, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos.  A well-crafted starter resolution, presentations to and endorsements by various environmental groups (including the three regional Sierra Club chapters), and targeted in-person lobbying were the main tactics.  

The staff generated their own weaker resolution, but the groundwork had already been done with Climate Committee members agreeing to the stronger 350 Bay Area resolution.  Avalos introduced amendments to strengthen the resolution, which passed unanimously through the committee.  

Members of the BayCAP team after the BAAQMD Climate Protection Committee adopts the 80% reduction by 2050 Resolution: Dr. Robert Gould, Rand Wrobel, Ken Jones, Floyd Smith, Patrick Kennedy, Jed Holtzman, Caitlin Chew, Taylor Hawke, Janet Stromberg, Judy Williams, Larry Danos and Bill Pinkham
This momentum with the lobbying effort made the full Board decision likely.  A BayCAP petition with nearly 1700 signatures was submitted to the Board. A campaign by the Sierra Club that sent hundreds of emails to Board members got their attention. Even if it was unnecessary (perhaps annoying), it underlined the public support of the measure. The vote Wednesday was a “middle of the strike zone“ unanimous home run.

How 80% Emission Reduction can be done
There are plenty of studies that provide a scientific basis for how to achieve dramatic emission reductions.  One that was often cited by the BayCAP team was published in Science (Jan 2012) by Williams, et al. for California with 3 major steps:
1.    Energy Efficiency
2.    Decarbonizing Electricity (with wind and solar)
3.    Electrifying Everything

The 3 Steps
Here is the often-referred-to graphic of the reduction "wedges" over time:
The Emission Reduction Wedges over time

Recently the work of Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson (see the Sept. 2013 webinar, or his appearance on Letterman, part 1 & 2) , showing how to achieve even greater and quicker reductions of 100% by 2050 and 80% by 2030 with wind and solar have been encouraging and referenced often.  These visions of a clean climate-stabilizing future are notably not dependent on new technology. It is simply a game of political will.  

Eighty percent emissions reduction in~40 years means 10% average reductions every five years will indeed take sustained strong political intention.  The resistance is usually stated in terms of cost and jobs. That defense is weakening with the costs of not mitigating climate change becoming more apparent with droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and superstorms, (oh, and sea rise, floods, pest plagues, extinctions, health problems, ocean acidification, inability to irrigate the Central Valley, lack of snow pack, etc.).  The jobs question as well can be trounced with facts, like that of California clean energy sectors job growth far outperforming the general economy.

Game On
The Air District’s Resolution is only the start of a long engagement.  While absent so far, we are sure that Big Oil will fight in the rule-making game they know so well.  This resolution means that the refineries Business As Usual growth plans for dirty crude, and indeed anything like their normal operation (40% of industrial/commercial emission sources in 2007) cannot continue.  Their very existence is hereby threatened, both for their own emissions and the burning of their products.  Can you hear the carbon bubble beginning to pop?

There will be program drafts, and public workshops and oil-soaked, er, -funded, politicians blocking action. The BAAQMD Board is looking for public support and acknowledges the importance of a public outreach effort so that everyone knows the importance of curbing carbon pollution.

What You Can Do
If you live in the Bay Area, you can join 350 Bay Area to get email updates, and either become a “Friend” of the BayCAP team or ask to join their active email group.  If you live elsewhere, let your policymakers know about the BAAQMD Resolution, and encourage them to also be a leader in the climate game.  As we know, the current score is grim (with CO2 blowing past 400ppm) and a turnaround is desperately needed.  And as we know, it’s not really a game.

Originally posted to RandW on Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 02:20 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Climate Change SOS, and California politics.


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Comment Preferences

  •  The Bay Area has a reasonable chance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nextstep, erush1345

    of having success since they can simply do without their most polluting industries.

    Which will largely move elsewhere instead of actually shut down.  

    But then they're at least somebody else's problem!

    •  but how does that help us globally? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      This is why a patchwork of regional/local efforts will help lay the groundwork but will not be enough. If we simply relocate emissions to outside of a regulated area, then all we've done is added emissions related to transportation of the substance by importing it.

      We need to get past Congressional gridlock AND take action that makes the US a credible player internationally on GHG reductions, if we want anyone else to follow in our footsteps.

      While we dither, Europe and Asia are making great strides in embedding energy efficiency into their infrastructure, leaving us in the dust competitively.

      •  It's a start I suppose (0+ / 0-)

        but it seems like the oil refineries were big targets, I assume the goal is to shut them down.

        Since they emit 36% of the carbon pollution in the bay area, that gets them almost half of the way to the goal of reducing emissions by 80%.

        Areas that don't have a big ass emission source like that are going to struggle a lot more to cut down by 80%.  Especially if the refiners displaced from the Bay Area decide to move in . . ..   (in a way that's silly, because they will much more likely move offshore).

        •  Refineries and the demand for fossil fuels... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Glen The Plumber, citisven

          ... are big targets. To clarify,  the refineries in the Bay Area refine 36% of the crude in California.  They emit 40% of the Industrial/Commercial sector carbon pollution, which amounts to about 25% of total stationary carbon sources.

          I suppose they could try to sequester their emissions, but permitting for that in the Bay Area would be doubtful. Moving seems more likely, which IMHO would be more of shut-it-down and expand elsewhere.  If the South Coast Air  District also passed such a Resolution, it would really transform most all of California. In either case, its a great precedent and should make investors think twice about the future of fossil fuel investments.

          “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” - William Butler Yeats

          by RandW on Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 03:25:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, about lauding Europe & Asia (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they're actually not really "leaving us in the dust competitively"

  •  nice detailed work - hope the Community Spotlight (6+ / 0-)

    folk pick up on this. Republished to Climate Hawks.

  •  California's 34 other air districts can do it too (5+ / 0-)

    What we need is a massive build out of clean energy and then a closing down of the dirty energy sources. The Air District can focus policy and regulations to do both. We can develop model building codes for zero energy buildings and ramp up to require them after "proven in practice."

    I would like to see a Bay Area referendum to pose a suite of solutions and raise the funds to deploy them. We can do this and the Air District can lead the campaign, just like the East Bay Regional Park District campaigned to raise funds in two of the nine Bay Area counties to pay for park improvements and expansion. The people will go for this if we do it together and we make the polluters pay their fair share.

    We have the climate researchers here, the wealth, the political will and a nexus of very dirty industries. This is where to start, where we can show the rest of the State and nation how to do it.

    try habitat restoration - good for you, good for all

    by jps on Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 09:11:05 AM PST

  •  Thank you, RandW. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    atdnext, jps, citisven

    Some good news is overdue. Republished to Climate Change SOS and sent to social network groups.

    "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... it is about learning to dance in the rain." ~ Vivanne Grenne Shop Kos Katalogue!

    by remembrance on Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 11:52:38 AM PST

  •  Thanks Rand (0+ / 0-)

    This is a great summary of what happened last week and the history behind it.

    Ecology is the new Economy => Kosonomy

    by citisven on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:05:02 AM PST

  •  I'm really impressed. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's aggressive -- and if they can do it, so can others. This could make a huge difference.

    "Broccoli is revolutionary. Broccoli could take down a government." --Kris Carr

    by rb137 on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:11:55 AM PST

  •  Cities and Towns (0+ / 0-)

    That's were the action is happening.  We have to ramp those actions up, expand them to as many cities and towns as possible, and network the solutions throughout those communities.

    Cambridge, MA has begun thinking through the idea of zero net energy for all new buildings.  

    While the international community and the nations are dithering, cities and towns are doing things because they have to - for the purposes of resilience or for planning development.  

    Good for SF.

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