The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that greenhouse gas pollution in California fell below 1990 levels for the first time since emissions peaked in 2004 — an achievement roughly equal to taking 12 million cars off the road or saving six billion gallons of gasoline a year.
“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in a recent statement. “The next step is for California to cut emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 — a heroic and very ambitious goal.”
Under Assembly Bill 32 passed in 2006, California must reduce its emissions to 1990 levels (431 million metric tons) by 2020. The 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory shows that California emitted 429 million metric tons of climate pollutants in 2016 — a drop of 12 million metric tons, or 3% from 2015.
“In California we see the impacts of climate change all around us, but our efforts to curb its worst impacts are on track. We are well positioned to meet the challenge of the 2030 target,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This is great news for the health of Californians, the state’s environment and its economy, even as we face the failure of our national leadership to address climate change.”
Senate Bill 32, signed in 2016, requires the state to go even further than AB 32 and cut emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 — the most ambitious carbon goal in North America.
The state’s annual emissions inventory helps keep the state accountable for meeting its emissions reduction targets. Highlights from the inventory published today include:
- Carbon pollution dropped 13% statewide since a 2004 peak; meanwhile the economy grew 26%.
- Per capita emissions continue to be among the lowest in the country. They fell 23% from a peak of 14 metric tons per person (roughly equal to driving 34,000 miles) in 2001 to 10.8 metric tons per person in 2016 (roughly equal to driving 26,000 miles). That is approximately half as much as the national average.
- Carbon pollution dropped 3% between 2015 and 2016 — roughly equal to taking 2.4 million cars off the road or saving 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel.
- The “carbon intensity” of California’s economy – the amount of carbon pollution emitted per $1 million of gross state product – dropped 38 percent since the 2001 peak and is now one-half the national average.
- California now produces twice as many goods and services for the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the rest of the nation.
Thanks to the carbon price signal created by the Cap-and-Trade Program that makes fossil fuel generation more expensive, cleaner out-of-state electricity is increasingly taking the place of fuels such as coal. This included more imports of hydroelectric power from outside the state, which grew by nearly 39% in 2016 thanks to abundant rainfall throughout the West Coast.
“Emissions may vary from year-to-year depending on the weather and other factors,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “However, this inventory demonstrates that our policies are working to incentivize GHG-free energy sources and ensure the state remains on track to meet its climate targets in 2020 and beyond.”
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