California’s Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to cut emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Industrialists and environmentalists alike are watching intently as the world’s seventh-largest economy prepares to meet that goal — assuming the landmark law survives numerous court challenges.

San Francisco Chronicle:

The act calls for the state to first ratchet its emissions back to 1990 levels — the same target in the Kyoto Protocol, a seminal environmental treaty so far spurned by the federal government. By 2050 emissions would have to be cut by 80 percent under the 1990 levels. The law must still survive various court challenges.

Determining which industries will carry the biggest burden is the job of the California Air Resources Board. The general idea is to employ a market-based approach that rewards businesses for cutting emissions while penalizing others that fail to meet target levels. The industries that have the most to gain or lose include automobile makers, energy companies, the forestry sector and farmers.

The trading of “carbon credits” from one business to another is essential to the legislation. Companies that cut their emissions can sell those “credits” to other polluting companies. Companies can trade credits within California as well as with companies in the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

For example, some companies or agencies may be forced to plant large swaths of trees or pay for wind or solar power plants. Farmers could be required to change cultivation methods to reduce nitrous oxide emissions — or conversely, they could get credit for crops that suck up carbon dioxide.

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