California has long been a leader in climate policy, and the state has been ambitious in setting targets in this area. The state’s goal is to reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. A new study suggests that meeting this objective may not be possible, based on recently observed yearly emission reduction rates.
- The 2019 California Green Innovation Index estimates that California won’t meet its 2030 climate target until 2061.
- The study concludes that if the average rate of emissions reductions from 2017 holds, the state could be more than 100 years late in meeting its 2050 target.
- This comes in the wake of the state having met its 2020 climate target four years early, back in 2016.
According to the report, California needs to reduce its emission by an average of 4.51 percent annually to meet its stated 2030 climate target. This represents a significant increase over the 1.15 percent reduction rate observed between 2016 and 2017.
Good news in the electricity sector
In California, electricity generation is the only sector that has observed steady improvements in reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 2000. Also, 2017 marked the first time that the state sourced more of its power from renewable sources such as wind and solar than from fossil fuels. Relative to the rest of the U.S., California has the second-lowest rate of energy-related carbon emissions per capita.
In California, 28 percent of total emissions come from on-road passenger vehicles. (Photo: Xan Griffin/Unsplash)
Challenges in other areas
While things have been good when it comes to California’s electricity generation, other sectors in the state have struggled to meet climate targets. Since 2000, the industrial, residential and transportation sectors have observed only slight emissions declines. And in the commercial sector, the problem is getting worse, not better. That sector has shown an increase in emissions of more than 64 percent.
In 2017, emissions in the transportation sector hit a record high, cresting to 41.1 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions statewide. The study shows that 28 percent of the state’s total emissions come from on-road passenger vehicles. Car ownership rates and vehicle miles traveled climbed to new highs in 2017. And despite an ever-expanding range of eco-friendly choices, consumer preferences in the state have skewed toward vehicles that are less fuel-efficient.
WHY THIS MATTERS
According to this study, 2017 wasn’t a great year when it comes to emissions reduction in the Golden State. Identifying the problem areas — as has been done in this report — can give us the information we need to try and get things back on track.