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Testimony: Recommendations for carbon sequestration on natural and working lands in California’s new climate plan

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On December 15, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held its final public hearing related to the Scoping Plan, the state’s five-year roadmap for meeting its climate targets. While feedback from scientists and advocates has improved the plan significantly since the beginning of the year, gaps in CARB’s modeling and flaws in its approach to carbon removal remain.

The Climate Center and partners have engaged with CARB staff and board members throughout the Scoping Plan process. Analysis and recommendations sent to CARB are available here. CARB’s detailed modeling is available here

The following testimony was given to CARB members and staff by Baani Behniwal, Natural Sequestration Initiative Manager for The Climate Center:

Good afternoon board members, my name is Baani Behniwal with The Climate Center. Thank you to the CARB staff for all of the hard work that has been put into this tremendous effort, and for incorporating some of the feedback from the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (EJAC) and other stakeholders. While we have seen great improvements to the Scoping Plan since the first draft, including creating a planning space for oil refinery phasedown and rejecting new gas plants, there are still key components of the plan that need to be addressed to ensure it prioritizes the best interest of communities across the state, especially the most vulnerable ones that already face a slew of environmental injustices.

In particular, while we see carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an unproven and over-promising scheme by the fossil fuel industry, we would at the very least like to see a dedicated rulemaking process for SB 905. This would ensure that CCS projects don’t increase air and water pollution in frontline communities.

To that end, we are hugely supportive of making the EJAC a permanent body that works on implementing the Scoping Plan. Keeping environmental justice voices at the table is the best way to ensure that working-class communities of color benefit from the policies and programs that result from this plan. 

Lastly, we see the overreliance on technological carbon removal strategies in the plan as a dangerous bet to make to reach our statewide goals. The current plan proposes to scale direct air capture (DAC) to 2.6 billion times its current worldwide capacity by 2035, and 6.6 billion times by 2045. We urge the board to reconsider this strategy and instead reinvest those vast resources into more ambitious plans for carbon sequestration on our natural and working lands, which is a proven, cost-effective approach with multiple benefits for communities and the environment that can scale.

We look forward to working with state agency staff to increase the scope of modeling efforts and set ambitious yet realistic targets to turn our lands from a net source of emissions to a net sink. Thank you.