GLOBE Foundation

Building better cities - Is California showing the way?


Source: GLOBE Foundation

California continues to demonstrate its environmental leadership in the fight against global warming with the signing by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of a bill which builds on California’s first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by adding the nation’s first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl. The bill, SB 375 by state Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), includes a series of incentives and penalties aimed at encouraging  more environmentally-friendly communities, more sustainable urban development, more alternative transportation options and more pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.

'This landmark bill takes California’s fight against global warming to a whole new level, and it creates a model that the rest of the country and world will use,' Governor Schwarzenegger said. 'When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning.'

In order to reach the greenhouse gas reduction goals set out in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), Californians need to rethink how we design our communities, noted Schwarzenegger. SB 375 does this by providing emissions-reduction goals around which regions can plan-integrating disjointed planning activities and providing incentives for local governments and developers to follow new conscientiously-planned growth patterns.

SB 375 enhances the state’s Air Resources Board’s (ARB) ability to reach our AB 32 goals by directing it to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be achieved from the automobile and light truck sectors for 2020 and 2035.

ARB will also work with California’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations to align their regional transportation, housing and land-use plans and prepare a 'sustainable communities strategy' to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled in their respective regions and demonstrate the region’s ability to attain its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The legislation would use up to $12 billion in state-approved transportation monies to encourage local agencies to build homes closer to cities and along transit lines to minimize traffic. It also seeks more in-fill development near jobs. Spending less time on the road is believed to be the single-most powerful way for California to reduce its carbon footprint.

Additionally, SB 375 provides incentives for creating attractive, pedestrian friendly and sustainable communities and for revitalizing existing communities. The bill also allows home builders to get relief from certain environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act if they build projects consistent with the new sustainable community strategies. It will also encourage the development of more alternative transportation options, intended to promote healthier lifestyles and to reduce traffic congestion.

The Governor also signed SB 732, another bill by Steinberg which will provide a comprehensive statutory framework to implement new programs under Proposition 84, the $5.4 billion initiative voters passed in 2006 for safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, natural resource protection and park improvements. The bill also establishes the Strategic Growth Council and will appropriate $500,000 from Prop 84 to the Resources Agency to support the Council and its activities.

The bill requires the Council to take certain actions with regard to coordinating programs of various state agencies to do the following:

  • improve air and water quality,
  • improve natural resource protection,
  • increase the availability of affordable housing,
  • improve transportation,
  • meet the goals of AB 32,
  • encourage sustainable land use planning, and
  • revitalize urban community centers in a more sustainable manner.

The Council will also manage and award grants and loans to support the planning and development of sustainable communities.

California is leading the U.S. fight against climate change with a string of strong policies, laws and innovations:

Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32): AB 32 established a first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The law will reduce carbon emissions in California to 1990 levels by 2020. 

Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): California’s LCFS requires fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in the state, dramatically expanding the market for alternative fuels. To start, the LCFS will reduce carbon content in all passenger vehicle fuels sold in California by at least 10 percent by 2020 and more thereafter.

Million Solar Roofs Initiative: The Governor’s $2.9 billion incentive plan for home and building owners who install solar electric systems will lead to one million solar roofs in California by the year 2018, provide 3,000 megawatts of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tons.

Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): California’s RPS calls for more energy to come from clean, renewable sources. In 2003, the Governor called for an acceleration of the RPS, pushing for 20 percent of California’s energy to come from renewable energy sources by 2010 rather than 2017, seven years earlier than statute. This accelerated standard became law in 2006 when the Governor signed SB 107.

California’s automobile emissions standards: The Governor has been pursuing every avenue possible to enforce California’s 2002 law, AB 1493 by Assembly member Fran Pavley, which allows California to enact and enforce emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, including a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to overturn its decision denying California’s waiver request to enforce our standards.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has challenged many members of his party to take climate change seriously, plans to invite lawmakers and governmental executives from around the globe to California this fall to address solutions to the problem.

The governor said he will invite officials from Europe, as well as from Australia, China, India and other countries, in the hope of forming an international alliance of community and regional leaders to fight climate change. Governors from all 50 states also will be invited.

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