Anniversary of world’s first law to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from cars

Ten years ago last week, Assemblywoman (now Sen.) Fran Pavley of Los Angeles stood by proudly as her Assembly Bill 1493 was signed into law in California. The bill was the very first legislation in the world to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from passenger vehicles. The fact makes ours the first government on the planet to take the step to act to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in automobiles.

Under the Bush administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fought mightily to halt California’s right to enact the legislation. But finally, in 2009, that agency granted a waiver that allowed Pavley’s strict emissions standards to take effect. Today, the bill—which requires a 30-percent reduction in new auto emissions by 2016—has been copied and more or less adopted by 20 other states in the country.

Can governments plan ahead and take the action necessary to help us avert the worst-case scenarios we face from climate change and a warming planet? On the occasion of this particular anniversary, it seems possible they can.