Statement by Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC energy program director

SAN FRANCISCO (June 1, 2005) -- Gov. Schwarzenegger's new global warming initiative keeps California at the forefront of national and international efforts to fight the world's most pressing environmental problem according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). As part of this week's World Environment Day celebration in San Francisco, today the governor announced specific targets and timetables for reducing California's emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants. If California were a nation, it would rank among the top 10 sources of this pollution worldwide.

The following statement is by Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC energy program director:

"By aggressively combating global warming pollution, Governor Schwarzenegger is addressing a challenge that affects California's economy, environment and the health of its citizens. The paralysis on this issue in Washington, DC threatens the welfare of all Californians. We applaud the governor's recognition that climate policy leadership goes hand-in-hand with a healthy California economy and environment.

"Thanks to decades of work by California's legislature, executive branch and an active public, this state is already a leader in attacking global warming pollution. California's pollution-cutting programs have no equal. The state's innovative energy policies have resulted in lower power plant emissions of the global warming pollutant carbon dioxide.

"But we can and must do more than existing programs can deliver. That's why the governor's announcement today is so significant. Achieving his targets will require aggressive, coordinated use of enforceable government standards, mandatory actions, targeted incentives and other market-based mechanisms, as well as public education.

"Success will require a united bipartisan effort by the governor, Legislature, state energy and environmental agencies, and the public. All have proved repeatedly that they are ready to rise to the challenge. We look forward to a powerful demonstration that effective climate leadership yields large economic and environmental rewards, and we hope that this message is not lost on the president and Congress."

California made history last September when it adopted the world's first ever regulation to reduce global warming pollution from cars. The vehicle tailpipe standard made international headlines, but it is not the only measure the state has taken that addresses global warming. While many of the state's more recent policies directly target global warming, others have provided benefits through their focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For 30 years California has been a world leader in reducing its reliance on dirty fossil fuels. Policies to increase efficiency and develop cleaner, renewable energy sources were intended to save money, reduce conventional air pollution and increase the state's energy reliability. These policies have had the added benefit of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the air pollutant most responsible for causing global warming. When CO2 and other global warming pollutants are released into the atmosphere, they act like a heat-trapping blanket, causing global temperatures to climb. California has reduced its contributions to global warming and boosted its economy by focusing policies on the energy production and transportation sectors, which together account for 92 percent of the state's CO2 emissions.

California's Clean Cars Law Tackles Global Warming Head On
Last September the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to adopt the nation's first ever regulation to reduce global warming pollution from cars. The new standard requires tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants to be reduced by 22 percent by the 2012 model year and 30 percent by the 2016 model year. Many consider the standards -- required by a 2002 bill (AB 1493, Pavley) -- the most important motor vehicle pollution requirement since the catalytic converter in the 1970s. The new tailpipe standard will accelerate the adoption of existing clean car technologies and spur new innovations in the race to build better, cleaner cars. It means Californians will have more choices across the full spectrum of vehicles than ever before.

California's Public Utilities Commission Accounts for the Risk of Global Warming
In December the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a new policy to protect consumers from the risk of higher energy bills associated with global warming. The CPUC ruled that heat-trapping power plant emissions will likely be regulated in the future and that the cost of regulation should be factored into utilities' investment choices. The new rule means that utilities can no longer continue to assume that global warming pollution will cost nothing over the coming decades. It directs their investments towards less polluting resources and protects consumers against a major financial risk. For example, coal-fired power plants emit about twice as much CO2 as natural gas-fired plants, and renewable resources and energy efficiency emit little or no carbon dioxide. Investments made today will have major consequences, since power plants can be expected to operate for 30 years or longer.

West Coast Governors Team Up Against Global Warming
In 2003 the governors of California, Washington and Oregon launched the West Coast Governors' Global Warming Initiative, one of the leading state-level efforts on global warming. The governors committed to act individually and regionally "to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below current levels through strategies that promote long-term economic growth, protect public health and the environment, consider social equity, and expand public awareness."

California Builds on 30 Years of Efficiency and Renewable Energy Innovations
California's investments in energy efficiency and improvements in building and appliance efficiency standards over the past 30 years have enabled it to hold per capita electricity use essentially constant, while the rest of the nation saw per capita electricity use increase by nearly 50 percent. These standards and programs have saved more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of peak demand (equivalent to avoiding building 20 giant power plants) and are avoiding about 12 million metric tons of CO2 pollution every year (equivalent to the annual emissions of approximately 2.2 million passenger vehicles or about half of Bay Area vehicles).

During this time, California's inflation-adjusted economic output per unit of electricity consumed increased by over 40 percent (while the rest of the nation increased by only 8 percent), demonstrating that economic growth need not be accompanied by proportional increases in power consumption. Over the last decade alone, efficiency programs have provided net benefits of about $3.4 billion to California's economy.

California has more renewable electricity generation capacity than any other state, and this amount will double in the next ten years. Currently, renewable resources (such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and small hydroelectric plants) provide 12 percent of California's electricity production, compared to 2 percent on a national level.

California continues to lead the nation in energy efficiency and renewables:

  • California's Renewable Portfolio Standard, enacted in 2002, requires the state's largest utilities to buy or produce 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2017. The governor has accelerated this goal to 20 percent by 2010, which will result in the addition of up to 600 MW of new renewable energy generation capacity each year until then. The governor and the California Energy Commission have recommended extending this target to 33 percent by 2020.
  • In 2003 the state's energy agencies adopted and Gov. Schwarzenegger endorsed California's Energy Action Plan. It establishes a "loading order" of preferred energy resources, placing energy efficiency as the state's top priority procurement resource, followed by renewable energy generation.
  • Under a 2003 law, the state will implement a replacement tire program to ensure that by 2008 replacement tires sold in California are, on average, as fuel efficient as the original tires of new vehicles sold in the state. Without sacrificing safety, this law is projected to reduce California gasoline consumption by cars and light trucks by 3 percent by 2015, saving in that year alone over 545 million gallons of gasoline, over $1 billion in fuel costs, and 4.8 million tons of CO2.
  • Last September California regulators set the nation's most aggressive energy savings goals, which are expected to more than double the current level of savings over the next decade. The utilities are expected to invest nearly $6 billion over that period to reach these aggressive targets, which will provide about $10 billion in net benefits to the state's consumers, avoid the need to build 10 giant power plants, and reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 9 million tons per year by 2013, equivalent to taking nearly 2 million cars and trucks off the road.
  • Last December the California Energy Commission (CEC) unanimously approved new appliance efficiency standards that will save energy, cut consumers' power bills and reduce air pollution, including CO2. The standards will cover new products sold in California in 24 categories, including consumer electronics, swimming pool pumps and external power supplies. Upon full turnover of existing appliances, the standards will save more than 5,000 GWh of energy per year, more than the amount of electricity used by all San Francisco residences.
  • This January regulators adopted a new energy efficiency administrative structure, which fully integrates energy efficiency into resource procurement for the state's regulated utilities. Utilities are now required to invest in energy efficiency whenever it is cheaper than building new power plants. The savings achieved through these energy efficiency programs will be subject to rigorous independent verification.