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Report Finds that California Has a Long Way to Go to Meet Its Long-Term Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets

Report Finds that California Has a Long Way to Go to Meet Its Long-Term Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets
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By Kathryn Casey, Esq.

Last year, we wrote about an annual report issued by Next 10, an Oakland-based independent, nonpartisan think tank, entitled “2018 California Green Innovation Index” (2018 Report). The annual report, first published in 2009, tracks the economic and environmental impact of 2006’s AB 32, California’s landmark legislation requiring a reduction in statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and also analyzes additional reduction targets set for 2030 and 2050. The 2018 Report included a conclusion that California had higher GHG emissions reductions than the United States as a whole while also achieving greater economic output.

Next 10 has now issued the 11th edition of its report—the “2019 California Green Innovation Index” (2019 Report). The 2019 Report concludes that although California is on target to meet its statewide GHG reduction goals in the short-term, meeting its 2030 and 2050 targets could happen 30 to 100 years after the target dates.

California’s Short and Long-term GHG Emissions Reduction Targets

In 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that California had met its short-term 2020 target early, with the 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions showing that California GHG emissions were less in 2016 than in 1990. The 2019 Report concludes that if California’s current rate of GHG emissions reductions continues on its current trajectory, California will reach is 2030 goals in 2061 and its 2050 goals in 2157.

2019 Report’s Challenges and Innovation Discussion

According to F. Noel Perry, Next 10’s founder, the 2019 Report, “. . . serves as a wake-up call—we’re going to need major policy breakthroughs and deep structural changes if we’re going to deliver the much steeper emissions reductions required in the years ahead.”

Next 10 notes that since 2000, the industrial, residential, and transportation sectors have only seen small GHG emissions declines, while California’s commercial sector has seen a GHG emissions increase of more than 64 percent.
The 2019 Report includes detailed information on a number of critical GHG emissions subjects, including the following:

•Transportation—The 2019 Report notes that transportation has long been California’s largest energy-consuming and GHG-emitting sector in California. Despite several state programs aimed at reducing the transportation sector’s impacts, emissions from on-road passenger vehicles have ticked up continuously since 2013. The 2019 Report opines that the state faces many challenges, including: increasing car ownership rates, declining public transit usage, and shifting consumer preferences from more fuel-efficient sedans and compact cars to pickup trucks and SUVs.

•Energy Efficiency—The 2019 Report discusses California’s long history of leading on energy efficiency, highlighting a reduction in per capita energy consumption since 1990 by 10.2 percent and a track record of keeping its per capita electricity consumption essentially flat over the last 40 years. Total energy consumption and per capita energy consumption, however, increased in California from 2015 to 2016 (largely due to increased energy usage in the transportation sector).

•Renewable Energy—The 2019 Report highlights California’s 2018 announcement of its goal of obtaining 100 percent of the state’s electricity from zero-carbon energy sources by 2045. According to the 2019 Report, California is well on its way to meeting that goal with 2017 marking the first time that a greater share of California’s power mix came from renewable sources than it did from fossil fuel sources.

•Clean Tech Innovation—The 2019 Report notes that California has demonstrated and maintained a leadership in clean tech innovation. According to the 2019 Report, California remains a home to some of the world’s top clean tech companies, particularly in the renewable energy and transportation sectors, and venture capital investment is increasing in the energy, efficiency and transportations sectors.

 •Economy—Building on a conclusion set forth in the 2018 Report, the 2019 Report also includes information showing that California’s economic growth need not to be compromised in order to reduce GHG emissions.

Conclusion and Implications

The 2019 Report may be one of the first scientific reports to sound the bell regarding the challenges California faces to reach its long-term GHG emissions reduction targets. It will be interesting to see if this 2019 Report sparks changes in policy at the state level. For more information, see: