Transport may keep California from reaching its 2020 GHG emissions-reduction goal, if …

“While the state has made considerable progress decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the rate of emissions decline appears to be slowing, due in part to a spike in transportation emissions,” Next 10 acknowledged in its Aug. 22, 2017 “Ninth annual Green Innovation Index finds California clean economy thriving – But emissions-reduction challenges loom: Transportation sector emissions spike, pose major challenge to state’s 2030 climate goals,” press release. “On an absolute basis, California’s total GHG emissions fell only slightly in 2015, down 0.34 percent from 2014. This compares to a 0.73 percent reduction in the previous year and sharper falls in years before. If current rates of decline continue through 2020, the state will need to reduce emissions at a rate of 4.97 percent each year in the decade between 2020 and 2030, and produce even steeper declines in the period from 2030 to 2050, if it is to meet current climate goals.”

In order for California to reach its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goal – a level of 431 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent units – from the present 440.5 MMTCO2e, the state needs a 9.5 MMTCO2e reduction in three years. That’s a reduction of an approximate average 3.167 MMTCO2e per year, or an approximate average 2.16 percent reduction over those three years or a per-year drop of 0.7188 percent. 0.7188 percent, incidentally, is more than double the percentage drop between 2014 and 2015. While certainly not impossible to achieve yearly percentage decreases of that degree, California, nevertheless, has its work cut out. And, considering GHG emissions from the transport sector are rising reaching the target will be made that much more difficult because of that fact and others.

California SR 101 on Cotati Grade

Accounting for the rise in Golden State transportation GHGs are such things as lower prices for fuel, less use of mass public transit and increased driving activity.

“In 2015, total transportation-related GHG emissions rose by 2.7 percent, largely due to an increase of 3.1 percent in emissions from on-road vehicles like cars, trucks and buses,” Next 10 in the release submitted. “This increase seems to be a result of a strong economy and lower gas prices resulting in more vehicles on the road, combined with a housing crisis that has led to longer commutes.

“‘Transportation sector emissions vastly outweigh other carbon-producing areas of California’s economy, and the recent spike should alert policy-makers that despite our best efforts, more must be done,’ said [Beacon Economics1 economist Adam] Fowler. ‘Cheap gas prices and a strong economy are creating increased goods movement and prompting Californians to drive more. In addition, the housing affordability and availability crisis is forcing people to live increasingly farther away from work, driving up total vehicle miles traveled in the state by 2.7 billion in 2014, up 0.08 percent from the previous year. So it’s no surprise that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles have been increasing, despite California having the nation’s most ambitious clean transportation policies.’”

So, clearly there is much work to do here. It is with this in mind exactly that greater reliance on public transportation can make a positive difference.

“‘The data in this year’s Index shows that developing cleaner transportation options presents both a great challenge and a great opportunity for the state moving forward,’ said Next 10’s [F. Noel] Perry. ‘Finding a way to reduce emissions by 5 percent each year in the coming decade will require innovation. Fortunately, that’s something California has proven it knows how to do,’” as so noted in the Aug. 22, 2017 release. Perry is Next 10’s founder and a businessman.

A vote of confidence that most definitely sounds like.


  1. Beacon Economics is an independent consulting and research concern, the very same organization that assembled the recently released ninth annual California Green Innovation Index for the non-profit, non-partisan Next 10 group which released the Index

Images: Stephen Gold (upper); California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (lower)

This post was last revised on Dec. 5, 2020 @ 7:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “Transport may keep California from reaching its 2020 GHG emissions-reduction goal, if …”

  1. “Greenhouse gas” emissions are a nothing burger problem since Global Warming is a hoax. California’s problems are all politician induced and include illegal aliens draining the state
    and county treasuries, crumbling roads,
    poor urban planning, billions being wasted on
    the Browndoggle non-bullet train to nowhere,
    a massive increase in gas taxes coming soon that will punish the poor and middle class, housing costs going through the roof due to government
    Interference in preventing more homes from being built and water shortages, again caused by politicians pouring 50 percent of the annual rain water into the ocean and not building any dams or reservoirs for 10 plus years. This is just scratching the surface of government incompetence. Anybody who thinks lowering CO2
    emiisions in this state will have any effect on worlwide natural temperature changes is looney tunes and suffering from feelings of grandeur….which pretty much describes the dingbats in Sacramento.

    • Why do I care? I care because much of the extra inputted greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere are tied to fossil-fuel burning, that process itself being an air-polluting one. I don’t know about you, but unnecessarily adding pollutants into the air is a thought that I do not relish in the least. I suspect that there are considerable numbers of others who feel exactly as I do.

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