Slowing Climate Change
Many ways to minimize our carbon footprint
As climate change becomes a more serious concern for many Californians, policy makers and researchers are considering programs that will reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 introduced one of the most aggressive carbon emission controls in the country to cities and organizations in California. By 2020, California must cut total carbon emissions to the levels they were at in 1990 – a 174 million ton reduction.
New ideas are helping companies, cities, and individuals in California minimize their carbon footprints. Some of these ideas include:
- Introducing a carbon tax
- Carbon taxes force companies to examine the true costs of pollution
- Cap and Trade
- Market-based solution that sets prices on carbon emissions
- Embracing renewable energy
- Solar energy is completely clean and carbon-free
Introducing a carbon tax
California lawmakers have weighed implementing state carbon taxes for some time, but have not moved to pass them.
Carbon taxes impose fees on greenhouse gas emissions released by businesses, organizations, or individuals. This forces companies to examine the environmental costs of their carbon pollution, and incentivizes them to reduce emissions.
Regulators must price carbon taxes carefully in order for emission reductions to take place. Taxes should be high enough so that it’s more economically viable to reduce emissions rather than pay the taxes, but not so high that it stifles business.
Currently, one area of California has levied a carbon tax on businesses. The Bay Area Quality Management District in the San Francisco Bay Area taxes businesses 4.4 cents per ton of CO2 they emit.
An alternative to the carbon tax, known as cap and trade, is currently in place in California. Instead of a flat carbon tax, cap and trade relies on market variables to set prices.
Cap and Trade
Initiated in 2013, California’s cap-and-trade law requires that organizations throughout the state reduce their carbon footprint, or trade allowances that let them create more emissions.
The California Air Resources Board sets a maximum carbon allowance each year, letting organizations purchase those allowances. One allowance represents one metric ton of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas equivalent.
Initial allowance sales have proven extremely effective. In 2013, all 13.8 million carbon allowances provided by the California Air Resources Board sold out at $12.12 per allowance.
Once an organization owns an allowance, it can decide whether to use it to cover their own emissions, or sell it to another organization if they have extra allowances. The ability to sell allowances to other organizations creates incentives to maintain a low carbon footprint.
Over time, the number of allowances the California Air Resources Board makes available will decrease. Between 2013 and 2020, the cap-and-trade system aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, fuel distributors, and businesses throughout California by 16%.
Embracing renewable energy
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 79% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.
If we truly wish to minimize our carbon footprint, we must transition away from fossil fuels toward clean energy sources like solar panels. Unlike coal, oil, or natural gas, solar panels don’t release carbon emissions that harm the environment.
The average U.S. household emits about 16,290 pounds of CO2 each year from electricity. By installing a 5 kW rooftop solar system in California, you could reduce your yearly emissions by roughly 9,000 pounds.
Contact local installers today to learn more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint in California.