California Takes Urgent Climate Actions

Posted: October 8, 2020

California is in the throes of climate change – and taking action. In addition to California’s cap and trade system, which is a key piece of their emission reductions, This autumn, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bold executive orders. Executive Order N-79-20, signed September 23, 2020, requires sales of all new passenger cars and trucks to be zero-emission by 2035. EO N-82-20, signed October 7, 2020, is even more impressive. It enlists California’s vast network of natural and working lands – forests, rangelands, farms, wetlands, coast, deserts and urban greenspaces – to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

30 by 30: EO-N-82-20 sets a first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal water by 2030 to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction.  California joins 38 other countries in the global effort to reach 30% of all land in conservation by 2030.

Of course, saying isn’t doing. Currently California’s natural and working lands are a net emitter. Moving to net drawdown is a bold goal. It’s also necessary. We need to be at or below 350 ppm CO2e to keep temperatures below a 1.5oC increase. We’re now at 411 ppm. Since CO2 stays in the atmosphere on the order of 100 years, the only way to get back to 350 is to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere – called draw down.

Cap and Trade Plays a Role

Adding an economic incentive will help. A trading market where there is value for capturing and sequestering carbon gives a value to innovation, forests, healthy soil practices, land use improvements, wetlands, and other carbon capture strategies. The California Tropical Forest Standard endorsed by the California Air Resources Board in September 2019 will value tropical forests for the essential climate benefits they provide — not just as timber or cropland. The Standard lays out a set of comprehensive requirements to ensure that potential forest credits sold into carbon markets, like California’s emissions trading system, will have high environmental integrity.

California has one of the largest multi-sectoral emissions trading systems in the world. It is putting that large clout to work to incentivize carbon capture and sequestration, not just in California, but also globally.