California set a record for greenhouse gas reductions in 2020, but it means nothing without new rules to curb methane, a major contributor to climate change. That’s the message from the state’s top scientists — and it’s a message that’s unlikely to resonate with lawmakers or the public.
The state’s new greenhouse gas emissions cap includes an allowance for 1,936 metric tons of methane from oil and gas operations — nearly all of the greenhouse gas emissions in the previous year.
Yet there are plenty of loopholes in the law, state environmental officials say, and the cap is too low. The Legislature needs to do more, they say.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that’s even stronger than carbon dioxide because it’s very water soluble.
The cap on the methane and carbon dioxide allowances on the basis of 2014 data is 1,936 metric tons, or 1.36 billion U.S. tons. That’s just above the level that the EPA proposed for 2019, which was 1,903.
The current cap would be the third lowest of all times. The second-lowest cap was set in 2008, when the cap for carbon dioxide was 1,081 metric tons. The lowest cap, 1,000 metric tons, was from 1950.
“It doesn’t provide enough room to capture the carbon dioxide allowance and the methane allowance that [the Legislature] would need to bring it below what the EPA suggests,” said James Donahue, director of the Climate and Air Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a San Francisco-based conservation group.
The cap is set by a rule issued in June by the state Department of the Air Resources Board. It was designed in part to address gaps in the law and to respond to the state’s decision to cut emissions in half between 2015 and 2020, according to a state analysis of the cap.
But it’s “not enough,” said Donahue, who was a state climate negotiator for the League of Conservation Voters. “