The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the agency responsible for implementing California’s landmark climate legislation AB 32. CalCAN monitors aspects of CARB’s rulemaking process and provides written and verbal testimony as needed, as well as organizing letters from allied organizations and farmers.
One important document guiding the future investments of cap-and-trade revenue is the state’s Scoping Plan. Under the rules of AB 32, CARB must produce a Scoping Plan every five years that describes the approach California will take to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) to achieve the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Scoping Plan of 2014
In Spring 2014, CARB released an updated Scoping Plan that went a lot further than the original in laying out strategies that reduce agricultural GHG emissions while also achieving economic and environmental co-benefits. For the first time, CARB proposes setting emission reductions targets in the agriculture sector for interim date of 2030 to help meet the state’s target of 80 percent GHG emission reductions by 2050. CalCAN was pleased to see that CARB’s new plan calls for research, technical assistance and financial incentives that provide resources for farmers and ranchers to implement reduction strategies. What’s not clear in the plan is how we’re going to get there.
CARB calls on California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to strengthen technical assistance and financial incentives to help farmers develop carbon plans and reduce emissions. While CDFA can play an important coordinating role, the network of technical service providers lies elsewhere with UC Cooperative Extension, Resource Conservation Districts (RCD) and nonprofit and private consultants. Rather than create something new, we need to strategically invest limited funding—and that means putting public dollars into existing public resources like Cooperative Extension and the RCDs.
The plan also calls out specific strategies to reduce agricultural emissions, including farmland conservation and farm management activities that reduce potent GHGs and increase carbon sequestration. We were pleased to see the mention of organic farming systems as one area of focus, but baffled by the support for “highly efficient management…for both conventional and organic farming.” It would be a mistake for CARB to emphasize technology-driven applications of fertilizers and other inputs over low-input, biologically-based farming systems, which studies find can reduce emissions and improve soil carbon stores while providing multiple health and environmental benefits.
So what’s next? The legislature is deciding how to spend $2 billion in cap-and-trade revenues for FY 2015-16. Last year, farmland conservation efforts received just $5 million, or 3.8%, of the Strategic Growth Council’s $130 million allocation. Such a small percentage again this year is simply not enough, especially as the state continues to lose farmland at alarming rates. That’s why CalCAN and our allies will be engaging in the budget discussions, supporting direct investments for sustainable agricultural solutions to a changing climate.