California’s emissions dip — but climate policies get less credit than the weather – Orange County Register

By Julie Cart, CALmatters

As Gov. Jerry Brown was making his way through Europe last month, striking an evangelical tone about the global peril represented by climate change, California’s Air Resources Board released good news about emissions reported by companies covered under the state’s cap-and-trade system.

Its report showed greenhouse gas emissions reduced by almost 5 percent in 2016, propelling the state toward meeting its ambitious goals. And for that we can thank Mother Nature.

According to analyses from the air board and independent experts, last year’s emissions drops came about not because of technological breakthroughs or drastic pollution reductions from oil refineries or other industries, nor did the lauded cap-and-trade program make a signifiant difference.

It was the rain.

Record winter precipitation, especially in the northern part of the state, brought hydroelectric dams back into play and allowed utilities to rely less on gas-fired power. And the air board’s report credits electricity generation for the biggest cuts: Emissions from in-state electricity generation decreased more than 19 percent last year, and emissions from imported electricity dropped nearly 23 percent.

And California’s policy continues to add green power to the grid: Large-scale solar generation increased by 32 percent and wind generation increased by 11 percent.

That trend is in keeping with a report issued last month by the California Public Utilities Commission that found that the state’s major utilities have met or will soon exceed the target of 33 percent clean electric energy by 2020.

On the other hand, emissions from oil refineries, transportation fuels and cement plants increased slightly. In the case of the cement manufacturing, the air board attributed the increase to ramped up production.

The report does not take into account all the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in any given year; only those from entities covered under cap and trade are required to report. Much of the highly polluting transportation sector, for example, is not regulated.

The air board report did not attribute the emissions decrease to any one of the state’s myriad programs intended to reduce energy consumption and industrial pollution. But the world heard a different story from Brown’s during his trip to attend the U.N Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

The governor was an enthusiastic salesman of the cap-and-trade program, in which certain industries…

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