The California Air Resources Board
CARB is charged with protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution and developing programs and actions to fight climate change. From requirements for clean cars and fuels to adopting innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, California has pioneered a range of effective approaches that have set the standard for effective air and climate programs for the nation, and the world.
CARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. CARB is the lead agency for climate change programs and oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health-based air quality standards.
Organization of the Board
The California Air Resources Board consists of 16 members. 12 are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The 12 members include six who serve on local air districts, four experts in fields that shape air quality rules, two public members and one, the Chair, who serves as the only full-time member. The Governor can choose any of the board members to serve as the Chair.
The other four include two who represent environmental justice communities (one appointed by the Senate and the other by the Assembly) and two nonvoting members appointed for Legislative oversight, one each from the Senate and Assembly.
In July 2018, the Board established staggered six-year terms for voting members pursuant to AB 197.
The work of the Board is supported by a diverse professional staff of scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers and policy makers who collectively make up one of the world’s most respected environmental organizations.
Partners for Clean Air
The Board is part of a coordinated three-tiered approach to cleaning up air pollution:
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets nationwide air quality and emissions standards and oversees state efforts and enforcement.
- The California Air Resources Board focuses on California’s unique air quality challenges by setting the state’s own stricter emissions standards for a range of statewide pollution sources including vehicles, fuels and consumer products.
- Thirty-five local air pollution control districts regulate emissions from businesses and stationary facilities, ranging from oil refineries to auto body shops and dry cleaners.
Responsibilities & Work of CARB
Reducing air pollution and protecting public health guide CARB’s actions. Our role is to:
- Lead California’s efforts to reduce climate-changing emissions through measures that promote a more energy-efficient and resilient economy;
- Set the state’s air quality standards at levels that protect those at greatest risk – children, older adults and people with lung and heart disease;
- Identify pollutants that pose the greatest health risks, such as diesel exhaust particles, benzene in gasoline and formaldehyde in consumer products;
- Measure our progress in reducing pollutants utilizing the nation’s most extensive air monitoring network;
- Verify automakers’ emissions compliance at CARB’s renowned Mary D. Nichols Laboratory in Riverside;
- Research the causes and effects of air pollution problems – and potential solutions – using the best available science and technology; and
- Study the costs and benefits of pollution controls, paying particular attention to individuals and communities most at risk.
Engaging the Public
CARB holds monthly public meetings to review progress and consider new approaches to cleaning California’s air. The Board, Chair and staff routinely consult industry and scientific experts and actively engage with advocates for public health, regulated businesses and low-income communities as part of the decision-making process.
Helping the Most Impacted Communities
Heavily urbanized communities and those adjacent to busy freight corridors are particularly burdened with air pollution. This is especially true of neighborhoods sandwiched between freeways, ports and rail yards. CARB has a range of programs in place, with others ready under a new law (AB 617) to address pollution in these areas.
CARB establishes state air quality regulations which protect public health by addressing all major sources of smog-forming air pollution, and other forms of air pollution. As a result, cars today are 99 percent cleaner than in the 1970s, resulting in less air pollution overall, shorter hospital stays and fewer days missed from school and work due to respiratory and cardiopulmonary diseases.
California regulations, based on extensive research and sound science, have driven innovation, leading to significant technological developments such as the catalytic converter (which helped slash ozone by 60 percent), and the production of highly marketable low- and zero-emission cars and trucks, and cleaner fuels.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Nunez) expanded CARB’s role to development and oversight of California’s main greenhouse gas reduction programs. These include cap-and-trade, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) programs. As a result of these efforts, the state is on track to roll back carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. With the passage of additional laws (such as SB 32 in 2014 and AB 398 in 2017), CARB is now mapping out how these programs and others can help California reach its next target: reducing greenhouse gas emissions an additional 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The ultimate goal for California is to reduce greenhouse gases 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
CARB’s efforts to clean the air and curb the worst effects of climate change have brought progress, but they are not enough. Millions of Californians, especially those in the Los Angeles area and the San Joaquin Valley, live with the worst air quality in the country and suffer the illnesses and symptoms made worse by air pollution. The state is seeing major impacts from a warming world, including deeper, prolonged drought, more intense wildfires and rising sea levels.
California’s work in cutting air pollution over the past half century now serves as its foundation for the next 50 years, to continue our legacy of protecting public health and ensuring that all Californians benefit from these efforts.