Since SB 375 was passed in 2008, California has changed significantly — including more ambitious climate goals. However, some things remain the same. Transportation continues to be the single largest emitter for greenhouse gas emissions in California. Emissions from passenger vehicles alone jumped 4.4% in 2015. If we want to achieve our state’s ambitious climate goals and continue California’s unprecedented leadership on climate change, we can’t simply maintain regional greenhouse gas (GHG) targets.
The ARB released their final targets last week. See Table 4 below for each region’s individual targets. We applaud the staff’s decision to pursue higher targets than recommended by the four largest MPOs in the state. ARB’s decision to pursue higher targets is a step in the right direction towards achieving those goals.
However, more is needed if we want to achieve our climate goals. Below are a few recommendations that, if implemented, would put us even closer to achieving our climate goals.
(1) While we recognize there is an influx of new funding, we need to make sure MPOs’ current transportation spending does not promote business as usual. We need to make sure that MPOs’ are shifting all of their discretionary transportation funds to transportation projects that will help us achieve our climate goals. In other words, no road widening projects or highway expansions.
(2) We need to make sure regions incorporate land use changes that will protect our natural and working lands, while proving to reduce GHG emissions. Regions should incorporate strategies that conserve land, prevent the highest-VMT (vehicle miles traveled) development, and reduce VMT from existing development.
(3) Higher targets should maximize benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities and mitigate harms. Maximizing benefits provide all Californians with affordable opportunities to drive less and live in safer, healthier communities. Mitigating harms protect the rights of communities of color and low-income communities, who stand to be impacted most by harms such as displacement. ARB should partner with ClimatePlan partners and allies to identify how we can ensure higher targets maximizes benefits and minimizes harms to low-income and disadvantaged communities.
(4) Emphasize and measure the co-benefits, such as improved public health and better air quality, that will come from higher targets. We know SB 375 provides a multitude of co-benefits, including improved public health outcomes and better air quality as well as increased access to economic opportunity. We encourage ARB to discuss these co-benefits and identify the best way to track these vital co-benefits.