Holland & Knight Attorneys David Friedman and Jennifer Hernandez Author Comprehensive Research Brief on Effectiveness and Costs of California Climate Policies
Among the key findings:
- California’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions far exceeds the national GHG reduction commitments pledged by wealthy Paris Agreement signatories, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. GHG emissions in these countries have leveled off, or even increased and caused significant economic consequences for consumers and manufacturers. As a result, the influence of Paris Agreement advocates in national and regional elections has been reduced.
- Not withstanding California’s well-publicized claims as a national climate change leader, 41 other states have reduced per capita GHG emissions by more than California, primarily by switching from coal to natural gas-fired electric power generation and to a lesser extent by lower GHG emissions from vehicle fleets that get more miles per gallon of gasoline consumed. Within the continental United States (Lower 48), California’s regulatory programs have resulted in the highest electricity and transportation fuel prices. In contrast, electricity and transportation fuel costs in states that have achieved significantly greater GHG reductions have been far more stable and have had much less impact on lower-income residents.
- Within California, climate-based regulations have caused or contributed to the Lower 48’s highest housing prices (2.5 higher than the national average), largest housing shortage (a 3 million home shortfall resulting in the nation’s highest poverty rate and contributing to the nation’s largest homeless population) and extremely regressive costs that disproportionately burden working families and the poor, the majority of whom are ethnic minorities. Climate policies are ardently championed by advocates, candidates and elected officials from the San Francisco Bay Area, which is far wealthier and less racially diverse than the remainder of the state or the country. Out-migration of working Californians from urban jobs centers has disproportionately burdened Latino and African American families forced to move ever farther east from Coastal job centers to get to housing they can afford – and are also forced to pay higher utility costs to heat and cool their homes and higher transportation costs to manage multi-hour daily “supercommutes” that harm the health of drivers. Climate-based transportation policies have been particularly ineffective, with transit ridership continuing to fall notwithstanding billions in public investment and regulatory strategies such as intentionally increasing traffic congestion to induce transit ridership.
The authors critique California’s metric of reducing GHG emissions within the state, which encourages relocating people and jobs to states with much higher per capita GHG emissions and actually increases global GHG emissions – and ignores GHG from goods imported to and consumed within California. They recommend that California retool its climate program by requiring the same level of disclosure of the effectiveness and relative cost burdens of proposed climate mandates that is required under the federal Clean Air Act and focus on climate priorities that have far more meaningful global GHG emission consequences such as appropriate forestry management.
Holland & Knight also is representing The 200, a coalition of civil rights leaders in a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board based on the disparate impacts of the state’s climate policies on minority communities. A copy of the lawsuit is available here.