Covering California’s cap-and-trade program and Near Zero’s report, California’s climate emissions are falling, but cap-and-trade is not the cause, East Bay Express spoke with Near Zero’s Danny Cullenward:

The state’s industries and vehicles emitted a total of 324 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2016, down from 340 million in 2015. But the progress came mainly from the electricity sector, where carbon dioxide equivalents from production dipped 23 percent, from 74 million metric tons to 56 million, according to a new report by the climate change policy think tank Near Zero.

“Emissions are down sharply in sectors covered by the cap-and-trade policy,” said Danny Cullenward, an energy economist and lawyer with Near Zero who helped write the report. “A lot of people have said, ‘This is great, the program is working.’ And we wanted to take a closer look.”

Cullenward’s analysis concluded that most of the reductions could be attributed to cleaner electricity, chiefly the result of increased hydropower production as heavy rains fell in the fall of 2016. A drop-off in imported coal also contributed to the decline.

“The drought eased in 2016, and that meant increased hydropower at dams,” Cullenward explained. That’s what drove the emissions dip from 2015 to 2016.

As for the cap-and-trade program, it doesn’t appear to be impacting pollution sources much, if at all. Emissions from transportation — currently the state’s most significant source of greenhouse gases — and oil refineries increased between 2015 and 2016 by a combined 3 million metric tons.

The main reason the cap-and-trade program is lagging is that its limit, or cap, on emissions is too high, environmentalists say. Cullenward noted that the 2016 cap-and-trade emissions limit was 382.4 million metric tons — 58 million metric tons above the state’s total emissions for 2016.

Read the full article, “Jerry Brown’s Cap-and-Trade Program Isn’t Working,” by Alastair Bland, on the East Bay Express website.