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Investing in Sustainable Agricultural Solutions to Climate Change

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This year, California’s long-anticipated cap-and-trade program goes into effect. The ground was laid for the program in 2006 when Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the country’s most comprehensive climate protection policy. Under the law, California will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

After much debate, legal challenge and a ballot measure attempting to stop it, beginning this year the first steps of implementing cap-and-trade will get underway with full implementation beginning in January 2013.

Under cap-and-trade the largest polluters of GHGs are required to “cap” and subsequently reduce their GHG emissions through a combination of renewable energy production, energy efficiency and related measures. Alternatively, polluters can partially meet their obligations by purchasing additional “allowances” (aka permits to emit GHGs) or by buying “offset credits” on the carbon market from other entities that are voluntarily reducing their GHG emissions.

An aspect of cap-and-trade that has been getting relatively little attention until now is that GHG polluters will be required to purchase a small portion of their allowances via an auction. The state will hold the first auction in November 2012 and quarterly auctions each year thereafter, generating hundreds of millions of dollars this year and increasing to several billions of cap-and-trade program revenue in future years.

In an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee on March 21st, former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (a co-author of AB 32) had this to say about the funds:

“…the sale of pollution permits creates revenue that can flow to technologies and programs that benefit the environment and the economy. Now, the Legislature has the responsibility to ensure that the forthcoming cap-and-trade proceeds get invested in ways that further reduce dangerous pollution and stimulate the economy. This is no easy task, but it is critical that decision-makers focus on what’s best for our state: continuing to support the fastest growing and cleanest parts of our economy; and resist efforts by those intending to undermine such an opportunity.”

CalCAN has been to making the case that some portion of the public funds from cap-and-trade should be invested in sustainable agriculture to support its potential for reducing GHGs and sequestering carbon. Bills introduced in 2010 and 2011 by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and sponsored by CalCAN would have allocated some revenue to research, technical assistance, farmland protection and incentives for farmers and ranchers to transition to practices with climate and other environmental and health benefits.

Though the bills did not pass, the message was heard by Governor Brown who included “sustainable agriculture” in his budget proposal as an eligible allocation for cap-and-trade funds. Importantly, the Assembly Speaker also included sustainable agriculture in his cap-and-trade revenue bill, AB 1532.

This spring, the legislature will take up the question of investment priorities for cap-and-trade revenue. CalCAN and its allies will continue to advocate for sustainable agriculture’s positive contributions to climate protection.

We invite you to learn more by downloading a backgrounder, and to join us in expressing your support by calling your State Senator and Assemblymember.

 

To read this post and others by Renata Brillinger please visit the California Climate and Agricultural Network's (CalCAN) website.

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