On August 16, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hosted a public workshop, Carbon Neutrality: Social Cost of Carbon & Affordability, where a panel of experts came together to discuss their recent work on the social cost of carbon as it relates to the affordability of California's carbon neutrality goals. The panel featured guests from the Energy and Resources Group of UC Berkeley, the Public Utilities Commission, the Legislative Analysis Office, the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, and the Clean Air Task Force.
The workshop served to gather information and facilitate discussion from the public and industry on the potential role California’s various sectors play in achieving statewide carbon neutrality. In this post we’ll review the various topics that were discussed during the 3-hour panel, highlighting the most relevant issues to industrial clients.
Climate Change Scoping Plan
The Climate Change Scoping Plan is California’s guide to reaching its greenhouse gas reduction goals required under the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, 2006). The Plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 15% from today's levels, to 1990 levels by 2020. California has made significant headway on reducing emissions and has achieved its 2020 goal four years ahead of schedule.
Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) & Affordability
David Anthoff of the UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group gave a brief overview of the meaning behind the social cost of carbon (SCC), and its significance in the context of equity. He discussed how equity might be incorporated into the SCC, including potential use as a metric where a dollar loss to someone economically disadvantaged is weighted more heavily against a dollar loss to someone with more economic resources. Equity was not incorporated into the Obama and Trump administration's definitions of world damages within the context of the SCC.
The conversation surrounding affordability continued with Liane Randolph of the Public Utilities Commissions’ talk on how the SCC affects ratepayers. She touched on the need to be cognizant of major cost pressures coming from wildfire mitigation and what effect this has on low-income utility customers.
Beginning with an ultimatum that many communities face, Phoebe Seaton from the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability began her talk by calling for environmental justice and economic security to not be treated as two options, but rather two necessities. She reaffirmed that the relevant obstacles must be addressed to ensure that low-income individuals are able to participate in decisions relating to reducing emissions. Seaton briefly touched upon pilot programs implementing community solar as viable solutions to the aforementioned obstacles.
Affordable Deep Decarbonization
Perhaps most relevant to industry was the information gleaned from Deepika Nagabhushan's (Clean Air Task Force) talk on affordable deep decarbonization across the state. Nagabhushan firmly stated that zero-carbon electricity is not sufficient, on the contrary, a zero-carbon energy system is what is needed to truly implement decarbonization in California. Nagabhushan’s presentation supported the argument that technical alternatives are needed so California is not locked into one set of technology that could impact affordability. The physical footprint required is much larger if California relies only on renewables and batteries, whereas our footprint would be much less if we rely on a variety of sources. To mitigate industrial emissions, for example, we need more than electrification of industrial processes as a solution, as opposed to reliance on gas and diesel.
This workshop provided an interesting overview into the SCC, as well as a variety of perspectives supplied by the panelists and audience members. The panelists suggested that the SCC will impact industry’s clientele in the coming years through the form of new regulations, demonstrating the need to keep an eye on the progression of the SCC and subsequent policies drafted and implemented to carry out its objectives.
More information, slides, and recordings of past and future scoping plan events can be found on the CARB website.