On this day in 2006, the California State Senate passes Assembly Bill (AB) 32, otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. The law made California the first state in America to place caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including those found in automobile emissions.
The Global Warming Solutions Act became law thanks to an alliance between the state’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its Democratic-controlled legislature. The bill’s passage solidified California’s role as a leader in enacting legislation aimed at combating global warming, or the gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere due to the so-called “greenhouse effect” caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. California–which represents 10 percent of the nation’s automobile market and is known for its struggles with air pollution–took the lead early in setting stricter fuel emissions standards than the federal government’s.
Despite his professed enthusiasm for the Hummer, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) known for its prodigious size (and prodigious emission of greenhouse gases), Schwarzenegger sought to uphold his state’s pioneering legislation regarding automobile emissions, passed during the tenure of his predecessor, Gray Davis. That law, AB 1493, required the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to regulate greenhouse gases under the state’s motor vehicle program and gave automakers until the 2009 model year to produce cars and light trucks that would collectively emit 22 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2012 and 30 percent fewer by 2016.
The Global Warming Solutions Act went even further, calling for an overall 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (or to 1990 levels) by 2025, a timetable that would bring California close to full compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate-change treaty signed in that Japanese city in 1997. Even after Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 into law in September 2006, California faced an uphill battle to enact these new standards against the resistance of the automotive industry, backed by the administration of President George W. Bush. Automakers had historically resisted increases in fuel-economy standards, as stricter standards usually require an overhaul of their production methods to make cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The tides turned, however, with the presidential election of 2008, and in 2009 President Barack Obama announced new nationwide rules on auto emissions standards, bringing them into line with those mandated by California.