Regardless of whether a vote is taken before the end of session on the future of California’s climate programs, the conversation taking place about what these programs should look like is a very important one. Clearly Californians place a high priority on reducing the impacts of climate change. Reflecting this, our state’s environmental policies have already gone far beyond any other state and undoubtedly some of our efforts have been successful.
This is all the more reason not to rush an end-of-session extension of our climate programs that fails to address the legitimate criticisms that have plagued them the past few years. Whatever path California ends up taking, it cannot continue to offer a blank check to unelected government officials.
Increased accountability and transparency are a must before any future plan is approved. The non-partisan LAO issued a report earlier this year showing that despite spending billions of cap and trade revenue, our state has seen little to no reductions in carbon emissions from this spending. The report also noted the lack of cost-effectiveness of many of the programs receiving cap and trade revenue, and also noted that the methodology used to calculate emission reduction estimates was flawed.
If science and empirical evidence is used to make the case for the need to fight climate change, then they cannot simply be ignored when it comes to how we measure the success of government programs. Moving toward a scientifically sound approach to reducing emissions is a critical part of any future program. The metrics used to design the current climate programs remains a secret despite requests from the Legislature for them to be released publically.
With billions of dollars at stake, the lack of transparency desperately needs to be addressed. Earlier this year I tried to create a basic consumer disclosure showing drivers how much the cap and trade program adds to their gas prices. However, even this most basic form of transparency was rejected and is unfortunately emblematic of a much larger problem.
When a large amount of power is concentrated in an unelected body without adequate oversight, problems are sure to emerge. By taking steps to work with the vast group of stakeholders that are affected by our climate policies, we can design better programs that are based on solid science and are transparent to the public. With stakes this high, we cannot accept a piecemeal approach designed to win political support that fails to offer comprehensive solutions.
Before California rushes ahead to clear up the swirling uncertainty around its current climate policies and moves to spend billions more of public dollars, we need a serious plan to fix the problems that have become all too clear. Otherwise, we will just continue California’s unscientific approach to climate change.
Assemblyman Lackey proudly represents the 36th Assembly District, which contains portions of Kern, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, including the communities of Lancaster, Palmdale, Quartz Hill, Acton, Littlerock, Pearblossom, Mojave, Rosamond, California City, Phelan and Piñon Hills.