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California climate plans should help local areas: Brown

24 May 2017 22:29 (+01:00 GMT)
California climate plans should help local areas: Brown

San Francisco, 24 May (Argus) — California governor Jerry Brown (D) today said the state cannot move forward on addressing climate change without reducing the local impacts of conventional air pollutants, acknowledging the growing role environmental justice concerns are playing in the debate around the state's cap-and-trade program.

Existing state climate policies need to do a better job of improving air quality for the "most vulnerable" people, Brown said at a conference in San Francisco.

"This is not some kind of amenity for the elite," Brown said. "We have to reduce the air pollution for all Californians."

The governor's comments come as the legislature considers a number of options to extend cap-and-trade, a program that environmental justice advocates have frequently criticized for not reducing conventional air pollutants in disadvantaged communities.

Brown's comments come a day after he toured the district of Assembly Natural Resources Committee chair Cristina Garcia (D). The environmental justice-focused tour included a highway overpass, a rail yard, and a brownfield site, after which Brown spoke with community leaders about the state's climate change programs.

Brown today said more money is needed for disadvantaged communities like the ones he visited outside of Los Angeles.

"We have got to make the investment and, yes, we are talking billions," Brown said.

The governor did not endorse any specific legislation, but his comments and yesterday's visit with Garcia are an acknowledgment that lawmakers need to address environmental justice issues in some fashion during the climate policy debate. Garcia is the co-author of AB 378, which would require facilities covered by the cap-and-trade program to meet new standards for air pollutants such as NOx, which contributes to smog.

California has set a target to reduce GHG emissions 40pc from 1990 levels by 2030. Cap-and-trade is considered a key part of the effort to meet the target but the current program runs only through 2020 and a legislative extension could help shield it from future legal uncertainty. To date, the state has invested more than $1.2bn of the revenues generated by the program's carbon allowance auctions, 25pc of which must be spent in disadvantaged communities.

Brown also said more progress is needed to limit emissions from the transportation sector and hinted at new initiatives.

"We are going to find ways — that will be announced relatively soon — to become more aggressive in promoting zero emission vehicles," he said.