SB 32 – Climate Pollution Reduction Beyond 2020

SB 32 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the 1990 level by 2030. At its heart, this bill is an effort to align state policy goals with the recommendations of most climate scientists, who agree that we must reduce GHG emissions to 80 - 90% below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic warming. The passage of SB 32 would allow state agencies to continue the work they began in 2006 under AB 32, which is “the first program in the country to take a comprehensive, long-term approach to addressing climate change.”


Existing Law: AB 32


AB 32, the Global Warming Climate Solutions Act, requires CARB to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (about a 20% reduction). (Much of the following discussion of existing law comes from a 6/24/2016 analysis of the bill, which was written for the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.)

Under AB 32, CARB has to identify GHG emissions targets, develop a Scoping Plan every 5 years for achieving the required emissions reductions, adopt regulations to help achieve this goal (including “market-based declining annual aggregate emission limits”; more on that later), and convene and/or appoint various committees. AB 32 also directed CARB to continue reducing GHG emissions beyond 2020 (more on this as well).

Two years after AB 32 passed, CARB approved its first Scoping Plan.  In order to reduce emissions by 80 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent,the plan called for, among other measures,


  • a cap-and-trade program, which was approved in late 2011;

  • a low carbon fuel standard, which was adopted in 2009;

  • light-duty vehicle GHG standards;

  • expanding and strengthening existing energy efficiency programs;

  • expanding and strengthening existing building and appliance standards;

  • a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS); and

  • regional transportation-related GHG targets.


California is on track to achieve AB 32’s 2020 goal, according to an update to the scoping plan that was approved by CARB on May 22, 2014. The scoping plan offered some new strategies and built upon others that had already been established  across 5 sectors: Energy, Transportation, Agriculture, Water and Waste Management. The plan calls for continued expansion of renewable energy, implementation of a Sustainable Freight Initiative, diversion of food and other organic waste from landfills, conservation of natural and working lands, and many additional actions (which are detailed in the updated scoping plan).


Existing Law: Executive Orders


Governor Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-3-05 in 2005, which called for GHG emissions reductions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050; however, there's no statute establishing specific requirements to achieve the goal or consequences if it's not achieved. Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-30-15 in 2015, which established an interim statewide GHG emission reduction target to reduce GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 to help meet the 2050 target.  


Global Context


The 2050 goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80% of 1990 levels, the minimum amount required to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius, is the global warming target set at the COP21 Climate talks in Paris in 2015. Reducing GHG emissions by 80-95% is also the goal of the Under 2 MOU, a partnership initiated by California before COP21, which brings various states and regions throughout the world to make commitments to lowering their GHG emissions. The 2 degree target is not as ambitious as many would like; indeed, it is intended to help us avoid only the most catastrophic effects of climate change.


Political Context


Recent discussions around SB 32 center around expanded legislative oversight of CARB, the future of cap and trade, and whether AB 32 provides the authority for CARB to continue its efforts to compel GHG reductions post 2020. Some powerful interests oppose California’s climate policy goals, and would prefer to kill or delay their implementation — in fact, according to the Better World Group/California Delivers, the oil industry spent over $22 million in 2015 to weaken clean air standards in SB 32 (which was pulled that year by its author, Fran Pavley, after amendments became too onerous) and SB 350 (which passed after a key goal, cutting gasoline use in half by 2030, was removed from the bill).


AB 197 “co-joined” with SB32


 In an unusual measure, SB 32 has been  amended so that it can become operative only if AB 197 is enacted. So, what is AB 197?

In an effort to address concerns about AB 32’s complex and wide-ranging administrative reach, AB 197 contains a number of amendments which members of the Assembly either requested or insisted upon. According to an analysis of AB 197 presented to the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on 627/2016, the bill will require that CARB prioritize emissions reductions from refineries and the transportation sector, and it will place additional legislative oversight on CARB’s activities.


Cap And Trade


Cap and Trade, also referred to as a “Market Mechanism,” is California’s method of making polluters pay for their use of California’s airsheds. Carbon emissions are capped, and a price is placed on the emissions released below that limit. You can find a good discussion of Cap and Trade in a recent article from Vox.

In 2012, the California Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit claiming that Cap and Trade is essentially a carbon tax; according to California law, the state legislature requires a 2/3 majority vote to pass any new tax. The argument was rejected in 2013 and is currently being appealed.

Cap and Trade has been controversial both for covered industries and some environmental and EJ groups; even the Pope and climate scientist James Hansen have spoken out against Cap and Trade. However, the system enjoys strong support from Governor Brown. Unless California can pass a carbon tax, which would require a 2/3 majority vote in the legislature, Cap and Trade may be our best way of collecting on the debt polluters owe to us. However, in an effort to streamline SB 32, cap and trade was removed from the bill.


Can CARB continue cutting GHG emissions without SB 32?

Remember when I said earlier that “AB 32 also directed CARB to continue reducing GHG emissions beyond 2020”? CARB may use language from AB 32 to continue regulating GHG emissions under after 2020, regardless of the status of SB 32. The Legislative Analyst office, however, has ruled that AB 32’s authority “sunsets” in 2020.


Sound complicated? It is.

 Let me reiterate that 350 Bay Area supports SB 32 because, in essence, it extends the state’s climate goals— goals that place the state on track to do its part to avoid catastrophic warming. We are working with other organizations to track and analyze amendments or related legislation, including participating in the CA Green Lobby Day on August 2nd.  We will continue to provide updates on our 350 East Bay Facebook page.

The legislative session ends August 31, so all of this is playing out over the next 3 weeks. Until then, we’ll be meeting with local Assembly members  and organizing phone banking and letter writing efforts to show our support for SB 32.  Please feel free to contact Kathy Dervin ( or Judy Pope ( to find out how you can help us pass this important climate bill. We are fighting for the passage of SB 32 despite the opposition; the climate crisis is not waiting and neither should the Legislature.  




Bill Text (as amended on June 30, 2016): SB 32

CARB Overview of AB 32

Bill Analysis

Climate Action Team description from State of California Website

CARB’s Initial Scoping Plan

CARB’s First Update to the Scoping Plan

Information on the Sustainable Freight Initiative, from CARB

Governor Schwarzenegger’sExecutive Order S-3-05

Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-30-15

Bill Text: AB 197

LA Times article about the passage of SB 350

6/27/16 Analysis of AB 197

Cap and Trade article from Vox

Statement about SB 32 from the California Environmental Justice Alliance

Statement about Cap and Trade from the Vatican

Sacbee article about AB 32 and its authority to regulate CO2e after 2020

Sacbee article about AB 32’s authority after 2020

CARB Scoping Plan

Under 2 MOU

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