Can, will California’s GHG emissions drop to 1990 levels by 2020?

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) in the document: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition)” proclaimed: “The California Legislature and Governor took significant steps to address the concerns raised about climate change, with the passage and signing of the Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, 2006).” The ARB went on to state: “AB 32 set a target to reduce California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by year 2020. In addition, the Governor signed Executive Order S-3-05 to further require California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below the 1990 levels by year 2050 (EO, 2005).”1

In the ARB staff report: “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” meanwhile, released to the public Nov. 16, 2007, in section III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, the agency pointed out: “The statewide 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level of 427 MMTCO2e [million metric tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent] is based on the net amount of greenhouse gases emitted to and removed from the air. The gross statewide emissions in 1990 were 433 MMTCO2e with forestry sinks offsetting approximately 7 MMTCO2e, resulting in net emissions to the atmosphere of approximately 427 MMTCO2e.”2

A few facts

Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information data reveals that in 1990, California’s population was 23.6679 million and in a grand total of 16.8731 million motor vehicles, 15.6687 million Golden State motorists racked up 156 billion miles.

Meanwhile, in 2010, the same source shows California’s population to be 37.3494 million people, and of that total approximately 64 percent – or 23.7534 million – drive. In addition, indications are there were 31.0141 million registered California motor vehicles and vehicle travel miles totaled 322.849 billion. In two decades, while the number of in-state drivers increased by almost 66 percent, vehicle travel miles more than doubled.

So, this brings this discussion to GHG emissions comparing years 1990 to 2010 and 2012.

In-state-produced GHG emissions by sector (in percent):

  • Transportation – 35
  • Industrial – 24
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 14
  • Agriculture – 5
  • Residential – 7
  • Commercial – 3

(Percentages above for 1990)3

  • Transportation – 38.4
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 10.4
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 7.9
  • Residential – 7.1
  • Commercial – 4.7

(Percentages above for 2010)4

  • Transportation – 37.3
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11.2
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 8.3
  • Residential – 6.9
  • Commercial – 4.8

(Percentages above for 2012)5

Finally, regarding state gross per-capita emissions, the trend overall since 2000 has been negative.

“Per capita emissions from industrial, transportation and electricity generation (in-state) have decreased from 2000 to 2012, with a 22 percent decrease in the 2012 in-state electricity generation per capita emissions from 2000. The per capita comparison is a useful metric for emissions evaluation because it shows that emissions have not grown consistently with population, indicating that energy conservation may have led to significant emission reductions,” the ARB noted.6

Please understand that gross greenhouse gas emissions went from 453.1 MMTCO2e in 2010 to 458.7 MMTCO2e in 2012 – an increase.7

On the horizon

To reduce California’s GHG emissions output to 1990 levels of 427 MMTCO2e from 2010 and 2012 levels would result in a reduction of 26.1 MMTCO2e and 31.7 MMTCO2e, or a decrease of 5.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

All things considered, can and will California achieve the 2020 target of 427 MMTCO2e? Based on current trends, it won’t be impossible but whether or not it happens, remains to be seen.

Stay tuned.

Notes

  1. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 1
  2. III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 2
  3. Figure 2. 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 6
  4. Table 2. Recent Trends in California Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Inventory Economic Sectors, “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 12
  5. Ibid
  6. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 25
  7. Ibid, p. 9

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