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Green Building News

California Meets Carbon Emissions Goal Early

The state reduces CO2 emissions to 1990 levels, four years ahead of its deadline

Part of California's carbon reduction strategy was to penalize oil refiners and other fuel producers for emitting carbon. This photograph of a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, was taken on August 6, 2012, after fire broke out at one of the refinery's crude distillation units. The company later paid $2 million in fines related to the blaze.
Image Credit: Stephen Schiller / Flickr

California has successfully reduced carbon emissions to 1990 levels, beating its goal by four years.

The Sacramento Bee reported that according to the California Air Resources Board, emissions dropped to 429 metric tons in 2016, a decline of 12 million tons from a year earlier and enough of a decline to meet the state’s climate change objectives.

Board chair Mary Nichols said 2016 emissions were 13% lower than a peak in 2004, with the reductions equal to getting 12 million cars off the road. While carbon emissions were down, business didn’t suffer — the state’s economy grew by 26% over the same period of time.

Nichols called the reductions “great news for the health of Californians,” but critics said carbon reduction efforts have resulted in higher prices for gasoline, electricity, and other goods. California’s carbon emissions represent 1% of the global total, so the reductions will have very little impact on the world’s climate, critics said.

“The notion that California is going to do anything unilateral that’s going to have an effect is statistically ludicrous,” Jerry Carl, an energy specialist at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, told The Bee.

Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California Berkeley, said that the slowdown in economic activity during the Great Recession was a big reason for the drop in greenhouse gas emissions. He said the news was worth celebrating, but added that meeting the state’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 would be a “much bigger challenge.”

Separately, The Associated Press reported that a California state legislative committee has revived a bill that would increase the state’s renewable portfolio to 60% by 2030, and require 100% carbon-free energy by 2045.

The bill’s author, Democratic Senator Kevin de Leon, tried unsuccessfully to get the bill passed last year. It now goes to the full Assembly and is expected to come to a vote later in the year.

Business and utility groups are opposed. They warned that the bill would lead to higher prices for consumers and would prematurely make fossil fuel plants obsolete, turning them into stranded assets that generate no income but still must be paid for by ratepayers.


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