Research Article: Carbon pricing, co-pollutants, and climate policy: Evidence from California

Date Published: July 17, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): James K. Boyce, Michael Ash

Abstract: In a Perspective, James Boyce and Michael Ash discuss Lara Cushing and colleagues’ research study on the implications of California’s policy on carbon trading.

Partial Text: The World Health Organization estimated the burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution at approximately 3 million deaths worldwide in 2012 [3]. Fossil fuel combustion is a major source of ambient air pollution: power generation and land traffic alone are estimated to have accounted, for example, for more than half of the approximately 55,000 premature deaths in the United States attributed to ambient air pollution in 2010 [4].

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 required the California Air Resources Board to develop a set of policies to reduce the state’s GHG emissions to the 1990 level by 2020. Compliance obligations for industrial facilities under the cap-and-trade program went into effect in January 2013. Covered sectors include electrical generation, manufacturing, cement production, and oil and gas production and supply. The majority of the state’s carbon mitigation has been attributable to other “complementary measures,” such as renewable portfolio standards for electric utilities and low carbon fuel standards for automobiles; the cap-and-trade program accounts for less than one-third of total mitigation [10,11]. The study by Morello-Frosch and colleagues focuses on the large point-source emitters targeted by the cap-and-trade program, but the emission trends for these facilities are the joint outcome of both types of policies.

The study by Morello-Frosch and colleagues underscores the importance of monitoring co-pollutant emissions during the implementation of climate policies. An important step to facilitate this would be improved integration of GHG data registries with other pollution databases such as the Toxics Release Inventory and the National Emissions Inventory. At present, the absence of consistent facility identifiers poses a substantial hurdle to analysis of the association between GHGs and co-pollutants, which may be one reason why such studies have been few in number [2,12].



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