The California Air Resources Board
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.
Organization of the Board
The governing board consists of 16 members. Twelve are appointed by the Governor, including the Chair. Six represent air pollution control districts, three are recognized experts in fields that shape air quality rules, and two are public members. Two additional members representing environmental justice communities are appointed by the state Senate and Assembly (one from each chamber). The remaining two members are elected representatives, one each from the Senate and Assembly, and are nonvoting.
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 the California Air Resources Board
Reducing air pollution and protecting public health guide CARB’s actions. Our role is to:
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 Haagen-Smit Laboratory in El Monte;
Research the causes and effects of air pollution problems – and potential solutions – using the best available science and technology;
Study the costs and benefits of pollution controls, paying particular attention to individuals and communities most at risk; and
Lead California’s efforts to reduce climate-changing emissions through measures that promote a more energy-efficient and resilient economy.
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 Our 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.