CEQA and Climate Change

The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over time is already causing the climate to change with more significant changes to come. Since a key purpose of CEQA is to maintain the quality of California’s environment, both now and into the future, reducing the risk of climate change is an important objective under CEQA.

CEQA Guidelines

By enacting SB 97 in 2007, California’s lawmakers expressly recognized the need to analyze greenhouse gas emissions as a part of the CEQA process. SB 97   required OPR to develop, and the Natural Resources Agency to adopt, amendments to the CEQA Guidelines addressing the analysis and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Those CEQA Guidelines amendments clarified several points, including the following:

  • Lead agencies must analyze the greenhouse gas emissions of proposed projects, and must reach a conclusion regarding the significance of those emissions. (See CEQA Guidelines § 15064.4.)
  • When a project’s greenhouse gas emissions may be significant, lead agencies must consider a range of potential mitigation measures to reduce those emissions. (See CEQA Guidelines § 15126.4(c).)
  • Lead agencies must analyze potentially significant impacts associated with placing projects in hazardous locations, including locations potentially affected by climate change. (See CEQA Guidelines § 15126.2(a).)
  • Lead agencies may significantly streamline the analysis of greenhouse gases on a project level by using a programmatic greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan meeting certain criteria. (See CEQA Guidelines § 15183.5(b).) Additional guidance on how to complete this analysis is included in the General Plan Guidelines.
  • CEQA mandates analysis of a proposed project’s potential energy use (including transportation-related energy), sources of energy supply, and ways to reduce energy demand, including through the use of efficient transportation alternatives. (See CEQA Guidelines, Appendix F.)

As part of the administrative rulemaking process, the Natural Resources Agency developed a Final Statement of Reasons   explaining the legal and factual bases, intent, and purpose of the CEQA Guidelines amendments. Other rulemaking documents can be accessed on the Natural Resources Agency’s rulemaking website . The amendments to the CEQA Guidelines   implementing SB 97 became effective on March 18, 2010.

Prior to enactment of the amendments to the CEQA Guidelines described above, OPR developed a Technical Advisory   suggesting relevant ways to address climate change in CEQA analyses. It also lists potential mitigation measures, describes useful computer models, and points to other important resources.