Leading by example: California shows continued, strong commitment to state emissions reduction

California can be credited with many air-quality-improvement firsts. Listed among these is a waiver granted by the fed that allowed the state to establish its own more stringent light-duty vehicle tailpipe-emissions standards, that is, apart from those prescribed for the rest of the U.S.

In an Oct. 19, 2020 news release, meanwhile, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) stated: “In Executive Order N-79-20 issued September 23, Governor Newsom recognized that achieving our air quality and climate goals hinge on transforming the state’s transportation sector. In that EO, the Governor boldly calls for 100 percent sales of zero emission light-duty vehicles by 2035.” If this comes to pass, California will add to its pollutant-emissions-lowering “firsts” credits.

Furthermore, in its “Governor Newsom announces California will phase out gasoline-powered cars & drastically reduce demand for fossil fuel in California’s fight against climate change” news release dated Sept. 23, 2020, the ARB projects: “By the time the new rule goes into effect, zero-emission vehicles will almost certainly be cheaper and better than the traditional fossil fuel powered cars. The upfront cost of electric vehicles are projected to reach parity with conventional vehicles in just a matter of years, and the cost of owning the car – both in maintenance and how much it costs to power the car mile for mile – is far less than a fossil fuel burning vehicle.”

Due to it being the largest single contributor of in-state generated greenhouse gas emissions or GHGs, transportation is the sector in state to keep a close watch on. The sector’s contribution to total emitted GHGs is 41 percent, if emissions from oil and gas production, is excluded. If included, transportation accounts for roughly half of contributed GHGs.

Also according the state air regulatory board, in addition to that, California transportation is also responsible for eight parts in ten of smog-precursor emissions and 95 in 100 parts of toxic air pollutants from diesel engines, the ARB further emphasizing that the Central Valley and the Los Angeles Basin are two of the country’s filthiest and unhealthiest air regions.

So, for a glimpse of some of the GHG emissions-lowering strategies the state has advanced, back on Sept. 20, 2019, the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom via its “Ahead of Climate Week, Governor Newsom Announces Executive Action to Leverage State’s $700 Billion Pension Investments, Transportation Systems and Purchasing Power to Strengthen Climate Resiliency” press release announced, “California has ambitious and essential climate goals to transition to a healthier, more sustainable and more inclusive economy, including: reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030; providing 100 percent of the state’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2045; reducing methane emissions and hydrofluorocarbon gases by 40 percent; and adding 5 million zero-emission vehicles to California’s roads by 2030.”

But it goes beyond this.

Continuing, “The executive order will advance California’s climate goals by leveraging:

State Investments: California has an investment portfolio of over $700 billion through CalPERS, CalSTRs, and the University of California Retirement System. As the state transitions to a carbon-neutral economy, and as other states and countries increasingly adopt ambitious climate policy, the state’s investments must align with the reality of this major market shift. The Governor’s executive order directs the Department of Finance to create a Climate Investment Framework to measure and manage climate risk across the state’s investment portfolio, with the goal of driving investment toward carbon-neutral and climate resilient technologies. The Framework will provide a timeline and criteria to shift investments to companies and industry sectors that have greater growth potential based on their focus of adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change, including investments in carbon-neutral, carbon-negative and clean energy technologies.

Transportation Systems: The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is directed to invest its annual portfolio of $5 billion toward construction, operations and maintenance to help reverse the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector. CalSTA, in consultation with the Department of Finance, is also directed to align ​transportation spending, programming and mitigation with the state’s climate goals to achieve the objectives of the state’s Climate Change Scoping Plan, where feasible. Specifically the Governor is ordering a focus for transportation investments near housing, and on managing congestion through innovative strategies that encourage alternatives to driving.

State Assets and Operations: California owns and manages major physical assets through the Department of General Services (DGS), including 19 million square feet of buildings and over 51,000 vehicles. We are also a major purchaser of products across our agencies. As a global leader on climate change, and as a responsible asset owner and manager, we must lead by example in our own state operations by aligning our operations with our values. As property owners and managers, we must take the physical impacts from a changing climate into account, as the private sector (bond raters and issuers, reinsurers and insurers) is increasingly doing. With this executive order, the Governor is directing DGS to identify opportunities to lower emissions and mitigate climate risk from the state’s owned and leased assets, primarily buildings and vehicles, and to implement sustainable purchasing policies across state agencies that prioritize the purchase of environmentally preferable goods, consistent with state climate policies.

Vehicles and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure: Moving away from internal combustion engines is critical to reduce carbon emissions and to address major pollution issues across the state, especially in the Central Valley and Inland Empire. Through the executive order, the Governor directs CARB to push automakers to produce even more clean vehicles, and to find ways for more Californians to purchase these vehicles on the new and used markets. CARB is tasked with developing new grant criteria for clean vehicle programs to encourage manufacturers to produce clean, affordable cars and propose new strategies to increase demand in the primary and secondary markets for zero emission vehicles. Finally, CARB shall strengthen existing or adopt new regulations to achieve greenhouse gas reductions within the transportation sector.”

All of which provides ample proof that California is fervently committed to seeing to it that its emissions are not only under control but are significantly reduced.

Image above: California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board

Published by Alan Kandel