AB 32: Cash No Longer a Promise, Now a Reality

Promises can only go so far before they need to be followed through on. When a friend promises to pay you back for a dinner you paid for last week, then 4 weeks go by without payment, there comes a time when your friend needs to make good on the promise.

It has now been almost a decade since Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was passed into law. This landmark legislation set aggressive goals for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a Scoping Plan was subsequently developed to identify strategies that the state can take to achieve the goals set forth in AB 32. One of the most desired and effective strategies that was promised in the Scoping Plan was the cap-and-trade program. This funding mechanism was long desired by Sierra Nevada communities because it was looked at as a way to reward those that were proactive in comprehensively addressing their GHG emissions. And last summer, finally, those funds became a reality in the Governor’s budget.

COMM NM Blog Image 2015 03The promise I want to talk about is not the promise that AB 32 made to Californians, but the promise that we, SBC, have made to our communities that there would be fruits from their labor. Sierra Nevada local governments have been long strapped for cash and resources, so in the past when our Climate Planning team would knock on their door and ask for them to help develop Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventories and energy reduction plans, often the answer was “we just can’t”. We made the promise that by being proactive and helping to meet the state’s emissions reduction targets, they would be rewarded with the ability to apply for funding to assist in infrastructure improvements and other projects to reduce their GHG. But for the last 5 years, this was only a promise. It’s about time that we’re finally able to make good on the promise.

The Governor’s budget for FY 2014-2015 allocated $832M to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). There are many criteria regarding what types of projects qualify for this money – specifically for the money appropriated to the Strategic Growth Council Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, one of the requirements is that “…The application must be consistent with activities or strategies identified in the regional SCS [Sustainable Communities Strategy], or similar planning document that demonstrate a per capita reduction in VMT and GHG.” This requirement is the realization of the promise that was made. There are now hundreds of millions of dollars available to communities that have incorporated GHG reductions into their long range planning.

The application process for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program recognizes local Climate Action Plans as a “similar planning document”. Because in our region there are few jurisdictions that are required to complete an SCS, the local Climate Action Plan will be the vehicle that local governments use to help projects access this funding. I believe that by actually having hard cash in the form of the GGRF, along with the other cost savings and co-benefits of developing strategies for reducing community GHG emissions; the value of this work will now be seen. The fruits of our communities’ labors can now be harvested in full.

Please ask your community’s leaders and elected officials if they have included GHG reductions in their planning, let them know the the benefits of doing so, and that the time of promises is over – available cash is now a reality.