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California To Fall Short Of 2050 Emissions Goal

November 6, 2013 1:48 p.m.


Tim Duane, Climate Change Law Professor, University of San Diego

Tim O'Connor, Attorney, Environmental Defense Fund

Related Story: California To Fall Short Of 2050 Emissions Goal


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. There is good news and bad news in a new report in California's efforts to mitigate climate change. We're looking good to meet emission reduction for 2020 currently will not reach the current goal by 2050. Reasons why they are compelled to step up the game is one of the topics expected to come up in a meeting this week at the University of San Diego. It is the school's fifth annual climate symposium. I would like to welcome Tim Duane and Tim O'Connor. First question to Tim O'Connor, what are they calling for this goal in reducing greenhouse gases? By how much do we want to reduce emissions, and by when?

TIM O'CONNOR: A law was passed in 2006 called AB 32 and it's the safest you can get. Back down to where we were in 1990 by the year 2012. Scientists around the world and in California said that that is not good enough to solve climate change. It needs to reduce emissions back down to about 80% below those emissions by the years 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So new study says that we are on track to meet those 2020 goals, Tim O'Connor what are the ways that we are accomplishing that part of the reduction?

TIM O'CONNOR: There are no fewer than twenty measures implement it since 2006. Reduce greenhouse gas throughout California, trying to remake transportation, fuel implementing large financial recycling programs, improving water efficiency and developing state-of-the-art programs. All part of the policy of working together to reduce emissions of the economy. My understanding that the AB 32 is set up the way these productions should be achieved.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What have been the laws strength and weaknesses?

TIM O'CONNOR: The hallmark achievement for California now we're seeing other states start to really move. There is a recent tax that was signed by the California and Oregon and Washington governor's and the district ability to command looking at reduction so a lot of strength and this is the largest reduction in the world. And I would say that people looking to California as a leadership role is an understatement as we have this large trade and trading companies popping up in China and South Korea really across the planet to look at reducing their emissions. In just California right now welcome to produce omissions in a lot of weaknesses, and what we need is more efforts like these to get a handle on climate change.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tim Duane let me get you in on the conversation as well. There have been legal changes as well to challenges to the reduction off as well. Tell us about that.

TIM DUANE: There have been several different types of challenges to the loss. As Tim O'Connor already noted there are different sources of law in California already. AB 32 has got most of the text. There are several other statues adopted that have established California schools in report and renewable portfolio standard that requires us to have 30% of electricity generation by renewable resources and SB's 375 which it us that establishes addressing transportation issues to try to develop strategies and plans that would reduce vehicle miles traveled. That would improve health and reduce carbon fuel and carbon coming out of tailpipes and also reduce the amount of miles we travel. The different types of laws have been issuing challenges. One broad claim has been recently decided by the Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals, regarding a challenge by Midwestern ethanol producers and other oil producers on the grounds that constitutionally it was suspect because it was discriminated against out-of-state producers of low carbon fuels. A federal district court in California decided that it was unconstitutional and that was two years ago. That went up on appeal a year ago and the Ninth Circuit heard that appeal and just recently it issued this decision about a month ago saying that is not unconstitutional. There are some other cases like this like the one happening in Colorado, other ones in the Midwest and some panelists this week talking about the Midwestern claim and this is an issue that could become an issue that goes to the Supreme Court if it turns out that different circuit courts reached different conclusions, but at this point at least it has been supported.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tim Duane, do you see anything coming down the pipe that could be a big challenge to California's AB 32? The whole way that we're approaching going about trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

TIM DUANE: If the challenger just mentioned were to go to Supreme Court, I was going to have different analysis and conclusions and basically said that California can go it alone without inevitably causing discrimination against other states and industries, and that would present a problem that California would really need to be integrated with others and go forward and that is a challenge despite the compact agreement leadership of the Western states cannot enter into agreements to go forward and manage things unless they have congressional sanction. These are things that we all agree that we will do the same thing, but we're not compelling each other to do it through law and so there is a challenge here at how states move individually and as state law there is also challenge out there that could be important to implication and California law opposed to federal law. There've been several challenges, in one of the challenges was that the state when it adopted its scoping plan had not applied with the of the vacancy of the equality act and initially a court found that that was a problem because they had not addressed at alternatives and the impacts of pollution on different communities, and agreed that that and that is gone to that challenge there is another state challenge to whether or not the development of the system and how they treat offsets where those parties that are might have produced their emissions, but they also might have people do other things that are not otherwise regulated by reduced emissions and the court found again in favor of the areas of support. I actually have an attorney from the panel that I'm going to these in detail. But the one that is out there that we think we were waiting for the shooter to drop where another is the challenge to the constitutionality of the analysis allowances under the regime so California allows these allowances to polluters to have them and trade them and there is a challenge for court right now as to whether that violates dropped thirteen and its requirement that a two thirds wrote by the legislature because it constitutes attacks have we're expecting this position within the next month or two on that case. And if the case came down in August the judge dismissed one charge of the pounds in favorite states but he actually raises some questions about the second part of this constitutional challenge. It comes down there suddenly a challenge to whether the state can auction off permits, or that would do is map and reduce the amount of resources for the available for the state to invest in things.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tim O'Connor, about this - because Tim you mention the fact that other places since remodeling trade programs that California and implemented almost a year ago, what is the status of the way that is actually working here in California?

TIM O'CONNOR: Is important to know that omissions are reported to the state every year and they are verified by third parties and the state has a really good handle on what the data is. We look at major businesses across the state and you'll see that there's been a significant amount of investment anchoring for efficiency upgrades and what did the nature and places like states are flying. These are individual reports that talk about what types of upgrades have been done. I think what we're seeing is the beginnings of a shift towards more efficient lower emitting, state so when we pull out of the economic recession of a couple years ago we as events are witnessed in places like Europe and economic rebounds of necessarily have to be paired with omissions rebounds, and we would like to see and we're beginning to see the decoupling of emissions growth in California and it's really piece of good news for the state.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Subheadline that came out of the new air resources, Tim O'Connor was that California will not meet the goals that it set by 2050 that is an 80% reduction from omissions of the 1990 standard of omissions. Unless we get more aggressive about this and we even develop new technologies, Tim O'Connor is that the original conclusion?

TIM O'CONNOR: It's unfortunate conclusion. It's modeling whether we can meet 2030 omissions goals and make you get to about 50% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. Looking at where were going yes are going to need more work, more innovation and dedication, a lot of everything that this plan says on the state's agenda whether to prevent energy system to make it zero carbon or ruin efficiency of our water system in transportation and infrastructure, and I don't think that there is anybody saying that the a prior studies that have been done that we can get to a percent below 1990 admissions by the year 2050. Most challengingly we need to keep our foot on the pedal and keep developing policies that are going to lead to innovation and real true transformation of things like our transportation system.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think where the legal aspect of this unites with the goals of trying to mitigate time and change is in the area of California can't do this alone. Tim, you're trying to make the point earlier that a lot of legal challenges that are coming from elsewhere basically saying that we can't make our own treaties with other countries or make her own regional deals that exclude other states, so where do we go with this legally? Shouldn't this be a national policy?

TIM DUANE: I don't necessarily believe that those leasehold legal issues that are waste our impediments right now. Clearly the doubt is that the if the Supreme Court were able to reach a narrow interpretation of the cause that would prevent us from doing a number of things. I want to echo Tim O'Connor's point that the report could've said that glass is half full instead of half-empty. With the report said that not only were we able to but we're actually track to meet this reduction in ten years ago people would not of leave that possible and in fact we're making enormous progress, not only towards the 2020 goals but a dramatic reduction by 2030 and the second point, is that if possible to meet the 80% gold that requires much more technological innovation in the status easy to see that with existing technology but I do think California is laying out that template of how one does that. It's a very complex and sophisticated economy without significant social disruption while generating innovation, to really meet that goal long-term requires more integration with other Western streets for example with the electricity sector. We have wind turbines that week in the north west that we are relying on but the Northwest doesn't have an incentive to invest in transmission to about transfer of that. That creates a bottleneck that reduces our ability to meet the goal. I think there are rather ways to get at it without having national legislation, I think that California's laying out a model of how to do that and we need more states cooperating.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The one I have thank you both and I have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.