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California Air Resources Board
Improved Program Measurement Would Help California Work More Strategically to Meet Its Climate Change Goals

Report Number: 2020-114

February 23, 2021

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, my office conducted an audit of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Our assessment focused on transportation programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the following report details the audit’s findings and conclusions. In general, we determined that CARB must do more to help the State work strategically toward its climate change goals.

CARB has not done enough to measure the GHG emissions reductions its individual transportation programs achieve. Specifically, CARB has not collected or evaluated sufficient data to allow it to determine whether or how its incentive programs, which pay consumers in exchange for purchasing low- and zero-emission vehicles, reduce GHG emissions beyond what CARB’s regulations already require. For example, CARB has done little to measure the extent to which its incentive programs lead to emissions reductions by causing individuals and businesses to acquire clean vehicles that they otherwise would not. As a result, CARB has overstated the GHG emissions reductions its incentive programs have achieved, although it is unclear by how much. Given the ambitious nature of the State’s climate change goals and the short time frame to meet them, California is in need of more reliable tools with which to make funding decisions.

Additionally, CARB has not consistently collected or analyzed data to determine whether some of its programs provide the socioeconomic benefits that CARB has identified for those programs, such as maximizing participants’ economic opportunities. Because these programs may cost significantly more than other incentive programs from the perspective of reducing GHG emissions, CARB must do more to measure and demonstrate specific benefits to disadvantaged communities and low-income communities and households that the programs intend to serve. Finally, despite requirements in state law and its own guidelines, CARB has been slow to measure the jobs its programs create and support—or the benefits of the specialized job training that certain programs are supposed to provide. As with the need to assess accurately programs’ GHG reductions, knowing whether its programs are achieving the expected important but more expensive socioeconomic benefits is crucial to providing the State with the information it needs to allocate its limited resources effectively in pursuit of its various goals.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor