California Gov. Gray Davis Signs Landmark CO2 Pollution Measure; New Law Uses Power of American Know-How to Tackle Global Warming

Important Shift Puts Washington and Detroit on Notice Against Do-Nothing Policies

LOS ANGELES (July 22, 2002) -- California Governor Gray Davis today signs a pioneering measure to protect California's health and environment by reducing global warming pollution from all new cars and trucks sold in the state, America's largest automobile market. The law demonstrates that Americans can and will meet the global warming challenge, and reaffirms California's worldwide leadership in pollution safeguards and clean vehicle technology.

The law -- known as AB 1493 -- is the first of its kind anywhere in world, and marks a dramatic change in the national global warming debate, according to NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council). It reaffirms California's successful 40-year leadership in pollution safeguards and clean vehicle technologies.

"We have the know-how to solve this problem safely and affordably. The law is proof that America doesn't have to take global warming lying down," said Ann Notthoff, NRDC's California Advocacy Director. "This is a bold stroke for the people of California, and an enormous credit to Governor Davis and the legislators who fought to get it to his desk."

Introduced by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), AB 1493 requires automakers for the first time to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), which form a thickening blanket in the atmosphere. It also will reduce other pollutants, and save consumers money at the gas pump.

Common Sense Solution to a California Problem
California is second only to Texas in carbon dioxide emissions, with cars and light trucks responsible for 40 percent of it. Just last month, researchers from several California universities published a new study documenting the severe threat of global warming to the state's water supply. Other experts warn of increased wildfire risk, added strain on the electric grid, and deterioration in air quality.

The law constitutes a major victory over a multi-million dollar campaign by car companies to defeat it. Despite the barrage of negative advertising, more than 80 percent of state residents support the global warming pollution cuts, according to a June poll by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California.

"Californians support this bill because they know global warming threatens our quality of life," Notthoff said. "Instead of fighting the law, we encourage the auto industry to face this challenge the same way we do, with the same spirit of innovation that makes California the fifth largest economy in the world."

National Ramifications for Politicians, Automakers
The new law has important national impact as well. In June the Bush administration released a startling report acknowledging the dangerous and costly effects of global warming in the U.S. and conceding that pollution is in fact to blame (findings that echo longstanding scientific consensus). This follows the President's withdrawal last year from an international global warming treaty, and his continuing opposition to domestic CO2 emission limits.

"Washington can't have it both ways. Scientists have given us the diagnosis; even the administration has accepted it. Now California is showing us there's a cure," said David G. Hawkins, director of the NRDC Climate Center. "We have the solutions to fix this problem, but we have to start now."

Last week 11 state attorneys general -- including California's Bill Lockyer -- urged President Bush to reconsider his stance and start addressing the problem. They say the White House vacuum is forcing states to act in place of the federal government. The result, they said, would be patchwork regulation, slower results and higher costs. As in past pollution battles, increasing action at the state level will raise pressure on Washington to step in.

In the meantime, other states may be considering California's new tailpipe standard. California is the only state allowed to create it's own emissions standards. But under a special provision of the Clean Air Act, any state is free to adopt the tougher measures in place of weaker federal rules.

Clean Solutions Exist Today to Cut CO2
Like California's other pollution control innovations, NRDC predicts the bill will spur technological advances in Detroit, Tokyo and other automotive capitals. Unfortunately, protests to the contrary by automaker lobbyists have become standard procedure in these debates.

"Carmakers have protested every health and safety rule ever written, everything from seat belts to smog controls. Eventually the public prevails, and the industry finds a way to meet the standards. That's why cars and trucks today are safer, cleaner and more powerful than ever," Hawkins said. "We can meet this challenge quickly once the auto company lobbyists step aside and let their engineers get to work."

Cost-effective technologies are already available that would reduce CO2 and other global warming pollutants from cars and light trucks of all sizes. Advances in engine and transmission technology, as well as improved aerodynamics and better tires all offer big opportunities. Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler have all announced plans to produce low CO2, fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs within the next few years. AB 1493 would accelerate the process, making cleaner solutions available sooner for more buyers across a broader range of vehicles.

Broad Support for an Innovative Bill
The global warming pollution bill has broad support from leading figures in California's high technology industry. The law is a top priority for NRDC and its 95,000 California members, as well as the American Lung Association of California and nearly all the state's major environmental organizations. Other supporters include the California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association and the California Professional Firefighters.

Local government support comes from the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco, as well as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and water management authorities in Marin County, Santa Clara County and the East Bay. U.S. Senators Feinstein and Boxer and a majority of the state's House delegation also back the bill. The bill has endorsements from all the major state newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
California's Clean Car Legislation