Cap and Trade Comes to Town

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With a furious round of meetings in Washington DC and in Sacramento, California, cap and trade for greenhouse gas emissions will be happening in some form in the near future. Cities and metros look like they may have a hand in trading allowances, which will mean a whole new landscape for sustainable land use and planning.

Congress is considering Lieberman-Warner and California, which passed AB 32 in 2006, is starting to lay out its blueprint for its own cap and trade system. It’s been done before through the Clean Air Act for other pollutants, but this will be the Big Kahuna.

The goal is to reudce greenhouse gases by 66% (Lieberman) or 80% (California) by 2050, with differing baseline years.

Enlightened efforts in land use and planning, including transit dvelopment, should be the beneficiaries of credits for development, if carried out along the lines of the US Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND).

There are many other details, but what is called in the cap and trade world a “downstream” transportation carbon-limiting mechanism, would provide regional and local government flexibility in taking actions to reduce their collective carbon output from transportation (the largest GHG emission category in California, with the largest part being trips made by cars and light trucks).

This is the scenario by which sustainable land use and planning allowances could provide funding for greener local government planning and land use to reduce skyrocketing American vehicle miles driven averages.

“Upstream”-only actions would limit emissions of carbon at the refinery through allowances based on the amount of fuel they sold, with that being the major point of economic impact for the transportations sector. Gas costs would go up unless the refineries absorbed the costs, and the risk is that cities and regional government might continue business as usual, which would mean continued vehicle mile driven increases.

California’s efforts and findings as they relate to AB 32 land use regulations at the regional and local government level are mostly summarized in the following three documents: Haagen-Smit Declaration, Seascape Action Plan and in the LUSCAT draft report (warning 86-page document).

Look for an update in late June as the scoping plan for the land use subgroup for AB 32’s Climate Action Team gets released by the California Air Resources Board and stakeholders.

The upcoming AB 32 land use release will have implications not just for California, but for our nation and other nations, too. Transportation has largely been unregulated under Kyoto, even in Europe, which has the world’s largest carbon-trading market.

Photo by Flickr user vsf

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One thought on “Cap and Trade Comes to Town

  1. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District yesterday passed a motion to start taxing carbon pollution at $0.04 per metric ton.

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