California's Carbon Emission Have Fallen to Below 1990 Levels

The Golden State actually managed to reach its ambitious goal four years earlier than expected.


(Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash)

While many states have been making incredible headway with renewable energy and environmental policy, California takes the gold on greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. California’s carbon emissions have officially been reduced to below 1990 levels. The California Air Resources Board recently announced this incredible feat, which came four years earlier than scheduled.

The two main reasons for this accomplishment are increased energy efficiency and an increase in renewable energy, specifically wind, solar, and geothermal energy, which have replaced the use of fossil fuels in the golden state. Specifically, the state was able to reduce natural gas by over 15 percent and simultaneously increase solar energy production by 33 percent.

What is even more exciting about California’s reductions is that they have done so while also growing their booming economy. This proves that becoming more sustainable does not have to come at the expense of economic development, which was the biggest fear policy-makers have when it comes to determining environmental legislation.

Where statewide carbon pollution fell 13 percent since its peak in 2004, the economy actually grew by 26 percent. So right now, California is able to produce twice as many goods and services for the same amount of GHG emissions that the rest of the country emits.

One of the techniques that California used to meet their reductions target, known as “cap-and-trade”, which taxes polluters that burn fossil fuels, has also helped the state to transition to a greener economy.

“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said Governor Jerry Brown in a statement.

California’s reduction in GHG emissions is equal to removing 12 million cars off the roads. Moreover, the golden state reached these 1990 level emissions back in 2016, but because the analysis of energy data is so intensive, it has only been made official now.

In order to continue these emissions targets, California is now targeting vehicles, with the goal of getting 5 million electric cars on the road by 2030. Right now, 400,000 California drivers commute with an electric vehicle. In order to make this transition, California is investing close to a billion dollars on electric buses, electric vehicles for government agencies, and charging stations. There has also been legislative action to increase housing in urban areas so that fewer cars will flood the cities.

The golden state continues to set ambitious targets, setting the bar high, and encouraging other states to do so as well.

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