Air District considers long-term action on climate change

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A committee of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved a resolution on Oct. 23 that could shape the region's approach to tackling climate change until 2050.

The proposal is to enact a regional climate protection program, geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The idea of creating a policy framework lasting nearly four decades originated with 350.org, an environmental organization focused on climate change. Advocates with 350.org and the Sierra Club worked in collaboration with San Francisco Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the BAAQMD Climate Protection Committee, to formulate a resolution complementing climate change planning already underway at the Air District.

“The resolution did start from outside of the community, but I’m adopting it as a member of the Air District,” Avalos said at the Oct. 23 meeting, “and it’s something I’d like to see members of this body support.”

The resolution creates the emissions reduction target, launches a strategic planning process, and commits to developing a work plan that would guide the district’s activities in coming years. Implementing the plan would entail gathering more data about ambient greenhouse gas emissions and finding ways to reduce the pollutants, which are linked to climate change.

The full BAAQMD board will vote on the plan at its Nov. 4 meeting. The Air District is governed by a 22-member body composed of locally elected officials from nine Bay Area counties.

In 2006, the California Legislature enacted AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which established a goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That's now only about six years away, so a Scoping Plan process is in the works to figure out how to meet a new goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Enacting a regional plan at this juncture would position the Bay Area as a leader on addressing climate change, said Henry Hilken, director of the Air District's Planning, Research and Rules Division.

Avalos emphasized the need to focus on metrics and to stay abreast of the region’s progress on meeting emissions reduction targets over time. Assuming the climate action plan is approved by the full board, he said, the next step is to hold a focused session “to put some meat on the bones to talk about how we will work toward achieving actionable items.” 

And after it has secured the approval of the full board, a work program would be drafted to include increased staffing levels, noted Jeremy Pollock, Avalos’ legislative aide. That would require increasing the fees that are extracted from the region’s major greenhouse gas emitters – primarily oil refineries.