Brown Issues Draft Environmental Goals and Policies Report

 

After a 30-odd-year delay, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research has released a working draft of the Environmental Goals & Policies Report – a document that OPR is supposed to produce every four years.

Titled, “California’s Climate Future,” the draft is a high-level document laying out overall policy goals, focusing especially on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. It’s the first time an EGPR draft has been released in 35 years – since the last time Jerry Brown was governor, when OPR released the “Urban Strategy for California”. The new document focuses on the prospect of California with a population of 50 million as well as the stresses of climate change.

But the draft shows how difficult it is to set hard metrics in the world of land use and transportation compared to the world of energy conservation.

The EGPR also sets an ambitious goal for greenhouse gas emissions reduction: 80% by 2050, the same figure that was included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Executive Order. There is no state statute containing that goal – the only statutory goal is a reduction to 1990 levels by 2020, contained in AB 32 – although litigation against the sustainable communities strategy in San Diego has successfully used the Executive Order’s target as a de-facto state goal.

The EGPR contains specific sub-goals for energy conservation, but only general descriptions of desirable goals and metrics regarding land use.

The proposed EGPR is organized around six high-level goals:

A strong economy

Thriving urban areas 

Prosperous rural regions 

A clean environment 

Clean and efficient energy system 

Efficient and sound infrastructure 

This is fine rhetoric – and not surprising – but the EGPR also seeks to set up a series of metrics that would measure the state’s progress toward the goal. The metrics call into five categories:

1. Decarbonize the State’s Energy and Transportation Systems 

2. Preserve and Steward the State’s Lands and Natural Resources 

3. Build Sustainable Regions that Support Healthy, Livable Communities 

4. Build Climate Resilience into All Policies 

5. Improve Coordination Between Agencies and Improve Data Availability

Each of these five areas of measurement contain a set of more specific targets. For example, the “decarbonize” goal calls for a 33% renewable energy generation by 2020 (already a state law) and 1.5 zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

Targets #2 and #3 above – natural land and sustainable communities – have a direct impact on the planning and development world in California. But the metrics in these areas contained in the EGPR are not as quantitative as those for the energy sector. 

In the case of natural and agricultural lands, the proposed metrics are:

1. Land conversion 

2. Land protection status 

3. Water consumption 

4. Use of recycled and reclaimed water 

5. Bioenergy development and use 

Though the draft EGPR includes some information about the state’s measurement of conversation of agricultural and natural land for development, it does not include or propose specific metrics.

Similarly, Target #3 -- Build Sustainable Regions that Support Healthy and Livable Communities – includes some broad discussion of possible metrics but not a whole lot of specifics in the way of metrics. This target contains four specific goals, including environmentally sensitive infrastructure investment; a transportation investment strategy that focuses on walking, biking, and safe routes to school; and better education and workforce training.

Perhaps the most interesting specific goal under Target 3 is “Build a redevelopment program that allocates funds in alignment with environmental goals as evidenced through some of the following activities”. At first glance, one might think that this is pretty earth-shattering: The Brown Administration is endorsing a new “redevelopment program”. But because it’s a high-level document, it’s short on specifics. As possible strategies it lays out the following

 1. Alignment of local General Plan with regional sustainable communities strategy (where ?applicable). 

2. Coordination with school districts on long-term planning issues. 

3. Natural resource protection plans that reflect long-term environmental goals. 

4. Adoption of climate change or sustainability plans that address emission reduction as well as steps to build climate resilience. 

5. Develop plans to help communities manage planned retreat from rising sea levels.

And it contains no specific proposals for metrics that would suggest how to measure progress toward these goals or targets. 

The EGPR was required as a result of a law carried by then-Assemblyman Pete Wilson in the early 1970s. Since Brown’s 1978 “Urban Strategy,” no governor has released an EGPR, though both the administrations of Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger worked on drafts that floated around Sacramento. 

The 1978 Urban Strategy was similarly lofty to the current draft in its goals and aspirations, but – unlike the current draft – it did contain a detailed “action plan” of specific steps the state should take. Among the proposed actions: A CEQA exemption for housing in infill locations.