Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Prior to human civilization, these climate changes occurred naturally due to small changes in Earth's movement around the sun that changed the amount of solar energy our planet receives. Satellites and other technological advances have allowed scientists to collect different types of information about the planet and its climate on a global scale. This data reveals that since the 17th century, earth’s global temperature has warmed significantly, coinciding with increased human use of carbon based energy like coal. This indicates that human activities are the primary source of warming climates.
The 2019 Technical Summary in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC states that the earth has increased approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017 from anthropogenic sources and that drastic mitigation actions are required to limit the warming to 1.5°C. This report also indicates that these mitigation actions will need to be able to reduce global net anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and must reach net zero emissions by around 2050. California continues to lead efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all levels of government.
California Air Resources Board
California, the fifth largest economy in the world, has been a leader in climate change policy. In 2005, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-03-05 that established the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, codified the requirement that statewide GHG emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. In 2008, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the Climate Change Scoping Plan that established an overall framework for the measures that would be adopted to reduce California’s GHG emissions from eight emissions sectors. These sectors are (1) transportation; (2) electricity; (3) commercial and residential; (4) industry; (5) recycling and waste; (6) high global warming potential (GWP) gases; (7) agriculture; and, (8) forest net emissions. AB 32 requires CARB to develop Scoping Plans every 5 years that describe the approach California will take to reduce GHGs to reach 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
CARB’s pending 2022 Scoping Plan Update will assess progress towards achieving the Senate Bill 32 2030 target and lay out a path to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. The State achieved its 2020 target four years earlier than mandated and the 2017 Scoping Plan Update laid out a cost-effective and technologically feasible path to achieve a 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030. The 2022 Scoping Plan Update will chart a path for California to become carbon neutral by 2045. Achieving carbon neutrality will bring a number of changes to California, including moving the State away from fossil fuel combustion in a manner that supports job retention and creation as California makes a just transition towards a clean energy economy.
More information on what is happening at the state level visit ARB's website.
The Office of Planning and Research
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires public agencies to consider the environmental consequences of their discretionary actions. CEQA is intended to inform the government decision makers and the public about the potential environmental effects of proposed activities and to prevent significant, avoidable environmental damage. The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) is required to periodically update the CEQA Guidelines. As directed by SB97, the Natural Resources Agency adopted Amendments to the CEQA Guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions on December 30, 2009. On February 16, 2010, the Office of Administrative Law approved the Amendments, and filed them with the Secretary of State for inclusion in the California Code of Regulations. The Amendments became effective on March 18, 2010.
In January 2018, OPR transmitted its proposal for the comprehensive updates to the CEQA Guidelines to the California Natural Resources Agency. Among other things, this package included proposed updates related to analyzing transportation impacts pursuant to Senate Bill 743, proposed updates to the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, and revised Section 15126.2(a) in response to the California Supreme Court’s decision in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (2015) 62 Cal.4th 369.
As directed by SB97, the Natural Resources Agency adopted Amendments to the CEQA Guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions on December 30, 2009. On February 16, 2010, the Office of Administrative Law approved the Amendments, and filed them with the Secretary of State for inclusion in the California Code of Regulations. The Amendments became effective on March 18, 2010.
Many of the air pollution programs already in place throughout SLO County reduce ozone forming pollutants and toxic emission, but they also have ancillary benefits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These programs include existing Rules and Regulations, Clean Fuels Programs, CEQA Mitigations Measures, Grants, Transportation Choices Program, Pollution Prevention Activities, and general Public Outreach.
APCD works towards addressing greenhouse gases (GHG) at the local level. These actions include, but are not limited to:
Developing public education and outreach campaigns on climate change;
Targeting a percentage of mitigation grant funds for GHG emission reductions;
Encouraging and providing support for local governments to join the Cities for Climate Protection Program, and;
Developing partnership with Cal Poly for addressing climate change.
City/County GHG Stakeholder Group
The SLO County APCD developed a network of government agencies that meet regularly since 2005 to discuss implementation of GHG initiatives at the local level. Through information exchange and collaboration on resources, grant funds, and partnerships with utility companies, the group has developed GHG inventories, climate action plans, and implementation plans.
Local Government Climate Action Plans
Climate Action Plans are long-range plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from government operations and community activities and prepare for the anticipated effects of climate change. The CAP will also help achieve multiple community goals such as lowering energy costs, reducing air pollution, supporting local economic development, and improving public health and quality of life. The San Luis Obispo County and seven incorporated cities throughout the region have developed CAPs that are currently being implemented.
The plan establishes a community-wide goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, adopts sector specific goals, and provides foundational actions to establish a trajectory towards achieving those goals. While the plan is centered around reducing community greenhouse gas emissions, it also focuses on using resources more effectively, improving community equity and well-being, and developing an economy that is set to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and thrive in a rapidly changing 21st century.