A California carbon neutrality bill is ready for state Senate consideration after narrowly passing the Assembly last week.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1395, would set a goal for California to reach 90% carbon neutrality by 2045, with a focus on nature-based solutions and maintaining net-negative greenhouse emissions after 2045.

The Assembly has also passed a bill with the more moderate aim of identifying the financial incentives, market needs and potential regulatory fixes for the sector to meet a 2045 carbon reduction goal, which has also faced agricultural opposition.

The Senate, meanwhile, approved a carbon sequestration bill for natural and working lands after amendments that dropped industry concerns. Under the amendments, the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy currently being developed by state agencies will guide the process, and the goals must be vetted for cost effectiveness and technological feasibility. The plan must also suggest funding mechanisms for implementing the strategy.

The legislative activity coincides with the Air Resources Board launching the rulemaking process for updating Californias Climate Scoping Plan, which will include carbon capture efforts in agriculture. The agency has been hosting a series of stakeholder engagement workshops this week.

Lately the governor has been making the decision about climate policy and setting the bench marks,” said Republican Assemblymember James Gallagher of Yuba City during floor debate for AB 1395 last week. We should be the ones establishing what the policy is.”

Gallagher was referring to the governors executive order in 2020 banning the sale of internal combustion engines for cars by 2035 and other vehicles by 2045. As a recall election looms, Gallagher and other Republicans have been pushing back on the governors executive authority to issue such orders. Yet he opposed AB 1395 for setting limits on carbon capture technologies and limiting blue-collar jobs in the industry.

Others argued both carbon neutrality” and nature-based solutions” were poorly defined in the bill.

A coalition of opponents including the California Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association argues that the bill would limit carbon removal through sequestration efforts on natural and working lands at a time when the state is looking to scale up incentives for these practices.

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Asm. Chad Mayes of Riverside County, who left the GOP after a controversial vote to renew the states cap-and-trade program, argued the measure picks winners and losers.

We must not get to net-neutral but net-negative and have every technology at our disposal,” said Mayes. It's our responsibility to reduce emissions, and we don't have to wait for China to step up. … We have to work in a tripartisan way.”

Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia said the priority should be on bringing back jobs after losing so many during the pandemic shutdowns.

The bills author, Asm. Al Muratsuchi of Torrance (above), countered that he had no interest in picking winners and losers and called it a false narrative that his measure would limit innovation. 

Asm. Bill Quirk of Hayward, who worried about ambiguity in the bills language for what it means to prioritize nature-based solutions, switched his stance to support the measure, believing Muratsuchi would clarify this in future amendments.

Senate policy committees will soon take up the measure.

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