On Dec. 11, 2008, California air regulators adopted the nation's most comprehensive plan to date designed to battle global warming. The plan's development meets a requirement of Assembly Bill 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006), a California law that requires statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and an 80 percent reduction from those levels by 2050.  

After an 18-month public process, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the Climate Change Scoping Plan, outlining how individuals and businesses will be required to comply with AB 32. Virtually every sector of the state's economy and every form of business will be affected. 

The complex, highly-detailed plan includes a cap and trade system applicable to about 85 percent of GHG pollution sources; strategies to enhance and expand energy efficiency programs; carbon sequestration; implementation of California's "Clean Cars" standards (state authority sure to be approved by the incoming Obama EPA); increases in the amount of clean and renewable energy; and, implementation of a low-carbon fuel standard. The plan proposes full deployment of the California Solar Initiative, high-speed rail, water-related energy efficiency measures and a range of regulations to reduce emissions from trucks and from ships. There are also measures designed to safely reduce or recover industrial gases. Recommendations contained in the Scoping Plan must be in place by 2012. Funding for the administration of AB 32 will come from targeted fees.  

The plan has faced opposition from some business interests due to projected compliance costs. Other business groups and the environmental community generally supported the plan, though some groups associated with the "environmental justice" movement have threatened litigation over the cap and trade program.  

The state's political leadership has largely lined up in support of the plan. CARB Chairman Mary Nichols lauded the plan as the state's "prospectus for a more secure and sustainable economy," saying it will save the state money and break dependence on foreign oil by guiding capital investments into energy efficiency and renewable energy. She hailed the scoping plan as promoting "a new generation of green jobs for hundreds of thousands of Californians."  

Striking a similar tone, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger maintains that AB 32 will stimulate the economy, and views the Scoping Plan as promoting "the full force of California's innovation and technology for a healthier planet, a stronger and more robust economy and a safer and more secure energy future." According to the governor: "Adoption of the AB 32 scoping plan...provides a roadmap for the rest of the nation to follow. When you look at today's depressed economy, green tech is one of the few bright spots out there, which is yet another reason we should move forward on our environmental goals."  

Public opinion research (focus groups and polls) supervised by Sonnenschein's California Public Law & Policy Strategies team on behalf of firm clients shows unmistakably that the current developments in California represent not elected or appointed officials charging forth on their own, but a strong consensus on the part of California voters that the time has come to reduce the United States' dependence on petroleum.  

The CARB plan is posted at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/document/psp.pdf. AB 32 is posted at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_32_bill_20060927_chaptered.pdf. An interesting and readable analysis exemplifying how California policy makers equate GHG controls to economic growth and jobs is found at http://www.next10.org/pdf/report_eijc/75_01-3_ClimateAction_Report_Mod_PDF_FINAL.pdf.