University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law

Library of Congress Authority File


California has long established itself as a leader in climate change policy, with a deeply entrenched and ever-developing regulatory framework. The state is home to some of the earliest research on, and regulations targeted at, mitigating the severe implications of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, like carbon dioxide (CO2), on Earth’s atmosphere. It is therefore unsurprising that California’s regulatory approaches for climate change mitigation and GHG emissions reductions influence local and national climate change law and policies. This influence also notably percolates international climate policy. However, before California may definitively proclaim itself as a global model for successful climate change efforts, it must first refine existing programs to ensure responsible regulatory authorities enforce statutory parameters on emissions.

A series of recent cases illustrates the lack of demonstrable reductions in GHG emissions from regulated sources under California’s climate change legislation. These matters challenged different, but interrelated, aspects of CARB’s cap-and-trade policies to reduce GHGs under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32).

Among the myriad of justifications necessitating a workable regulatory framework to reduce emissions, two are most crucial. First, because California’s climate policy is at least perceived a global exemplar, it is necessary to ensure the programs, compliance methodologies, and authorities deputized with such a significant task are the proper mechanisms to do so. Second, anthropogenic climate change—which is largely attributable to GHG emissions—is occurring at an unprecedented rate with devastating effects projected to exacerbate each year. Policies must, therefore, provide practicable methods to monitor emissions as well as avenues to guarantee compliance and enforcement beyond mere discretionary statutory guidelines.