Getting there: On reaching California’s 2030, ‘35, ‘45, ‘50 GHG emissions targets

The United States emits something on the order of 14 percent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human-influenced causes.

Suffice it to say humans are responsible for 50 billion tons (50 gigatons or Gt) of GHGs that enter the atmosphere yearly, America’s GHG contribution being approximately 7 Gt annually.

Meanwhile, in California, in 2019 (the latest year for which firm figures are available), a total of 418 million metric tons of GHGs (or expressed another way as 418 MMTCO2e), was contributed by Californians (and presumably others visiting the state) to the atmosphere: a figure that represents 0.00838 percent of worldwide and 0.0597 percent domestic human-driven GHGs, respectively.

GHG budgets and emissions-reduction targets

The amount of total allowable in-state GHG output in 2030 is 258.6 MMTCO2e (40 percent below the 1990 in-state GHGs threshold of 431 MMTCO2e and 159.4 MMTCO2e less than the 2019 figure or an average annual reduction of 14.49 MMTCO2e spread out over 11 years, numbers that reflect the state’s GHG-emissions budget. It’s a fairly tall order to fill but not an insurmountable one given the Golden State’s past GHG-output-progress history.

State GHG-history highlights

From a high of 492.9 MMTCO2e output in 2004, there has been a general downward trend in human-contributed GHG in California.

“In 2016 in California, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction was big news in that the 2020 target of 431 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent units (MMTCO2e) was not just reached but surpassed, the state reaching a level of 429.2 MMTCO2e, four years early,” as it appeared in the “Latest California greenhouse gas emissions inventory a mixed bag. To meet 2030 target state has its work cut out,” Oct. 21, 2020 Air Quality Matters blog post. In 2017 and 2018 state GHG output was 424.5 MMTCO2e and 425.3 MMTCO2e, respectively, an increase of 0.8 MMTCO2e in 2018 compared to that in 2017. Although small, comparatively speaking, it is still, however, an increase in in-state-generated GHG.

Driving the numbers

From the “Latest state Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows emissions continue to drop below 2020 target: Transportation emissions fall for second year in a row, electricity emissions down again,” Jul. 28, 2021 California Air Resources Board press release, “California will require much deeper GHG emissions reductions to reach its 2030 target of 40 percent below 1990 levels, and carbon neutrality no later than 2045, or sooner. At the Governor’s request, CARB will evaluate pathways for the state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, including strategies to reduce fossil fuel demand and supply and phase out extraction in the state, while the Public Utilities Commission will work to establish a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions planning target for utilities. Governor Newsom also has directed the Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy Management Division to initiate the rulemaking process to halt the issuance of new hydrologic fracking permits by 2024, and requested that CARB analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction across the state by no later than 2045.

“Following the direction of SB 32 [California Senate Bill 32], many of the key programs that helped achieve the 2020 target early doubled in stringency beginning this year. Starting in 2021 the Renewables Portfolio Standard increased from 33 percent renewable electricity in 2020 to 60 percent by 2030. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard increased reduction of the carbon-intensity of vehicle fuels from 10 percent in 2020 to 20 percent by 2030. And the cap-and-trade regulation doubled in stringency from a 2 percent decline in available allowances each year to a 4 percent decline each year for this decade.

“Additional existing and new programs will increase reductions further. These include rules to cut emissions from climate super pollutants such as methane and hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants. There are also new regulations to further push electrification to achieve 100 percent zero-emission passenger car sales in 2035 and 100 percent zero-emission trucks and big-rigs by 2045 in line with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20. Additional reductions address diesel off-road and cargo-handling equipment used in ports and railyards. A new regulation under development is the first in the country to require the electrification of vehicles used by ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. These on- and off-road programs – especially the rapid introduction of zero-emission trucks at ports and railyards – also will reduce air pollutants and air toxics that afflict the state’s most disadvantaged communities.”

Greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-wise, California is indeed on the path toward a brighter and more sustainable future.

Generally speaking, it is evident that, since 2004, California has been trending in a favorable direction where reduction of atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions is concerned. If current GHG-emissions-reduction plans and practices are adhered to, there is every reason to expect that 2030, 2035, 2045 and mid-century targets will be met and exceeded.

Based on its greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction progress, California is in an excellent position for this improving trend to continue.

Contemplative point: If California can not only get this done but done in time, conceivably, everywhere else should be able to do likewise.

– Alan Kandel

Copyrighted material.

In the post, it was earlier pointed out that SB 32 (California Senate Bill 32) was titled: “The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.” This is incorrect. This is in fact the title of California Assembly Bill 32 or AB 32. The text has been revised to now make the reference in question correct.

This post was last updated on Sept. 13, 2022 at 8:52 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.