Southern California represents nearly one-half of the state’s population, is the nation’s largest manufacturing job center and faces some of the most daunting air quality challenges in the United States. Despite all that, our region has received only 29.6 percent of state funds targeted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the state’s cap-and-trade program.
That disparity undermines the very reason for cap-and-trade, a groundbreaking market-based program designed to combat the growing effects of global climate change.
Funding reform is needed, and now is the time. In the days ahead, lawmakers in Sacramento will try to put a plan in place to extend cap and trade beyond its 2020 expiration date, and regional equity should and must be a part of that.
Directing cap-and-trade dollars to where the need exists not only makes practical sense, it will help ensure the long-term viability of what is largely hailed as a model program to improve air quality through economic incentives.
Rooted in Assembly Bill 32, which was adopted in 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the state, cap and trade has generated about $4.5 billion from the auctioning of unused carbon allowances from manufacturers and other regulated entities. That money can then be allocated to programs and projects that improve air quality, such as mass transit, energy efficiency upgrades and the development of affordable housing near public transportation centers.
So far, however, the six counties that comprise the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region have received just 29.6 percent of the allocated funds, despite the fact that we account for 48.2 percent of the state’s population and 67 percent of the state’s disadvantaged communities, are far and away the state’s largest manufacturing center and lay claim to the most congested metropolitan area in the country.
On top of all that, we have arguably the biggest hurdle to climb when it comes to meeting greenhouse gas reduction standards. According to new targets proposed by the California Air Resources Board, by the year 2035, the SCAG region would need to reduce per-capita car emissions by 21 percent from 2005 levels. That compares to 19 percent for the Bay Area and Sacramento.
That disparity alone makes no sense, and underscores the double standard that exists in California when it comes to addressing climate change. Without a fair share of cap-and-trade funds, we have no shot at meeting what is,…