A single, devastating California fire season wiped out years of efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, said a new report Wednesday, leaving policymakers scrambling to figure out next steps.
The report, an analysis by the nonprofit group Friends of the Earth, showed the first state-wide decline in emissions since 1990, with California set to fall more than 30 percent short of its 2020 goal of cutting emissions to 33 percent below 1990 levels — the lowest in the West.
Other Western states and the U.S. government have also been struggling to cut emissions on a large scale as a global shift toward cleaner energy sources makes it difficult for industrialized nations to meet the Kyoto Protocol goals, which call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2010.
The report came as California’s politicians, activists and environmental groups gathered Wednesday for the first meeting of the new California Legislative Committee on Climate Change, a special commission created last year to develop a climate strategy for the state.
The committee, which is scheduled to meet for the first time next week in Sacramento, will look at proposals by the state and the federal government and hear a range of options, including carbon capture credits and other strategies to curb emissions.
Under the new committee, the state can still impose regulations on power plants and other sources of energy, and enact or expand a renewable energy mandate. But the committee can also propose new regulations, or propose regulatory changes that could impact other sectors, such as agriculture.
“This is an opportunity to make sure we’re not going to have a repeat of California’s problem,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Oakland), one of three representatives on the committee. “The big challenge is that this is coming at us from both sides, from California and outside of California.”
The report from Friends of the Earth said the biggest declines in emissions could come from energy and transportation sectors, largely focused on efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, such as vehicle fleets.
The report recommended that California’s “biggest source of reduction” should be