Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order for statewide carbon neutrality by 2045
— Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed State Senator and US Senate candidate Kevin de León’s SB 100, which mandates that the state obtain all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045. That in itself was a big deal, but Brown didn’t stop there; he also issued an executive order calling for the entire California economy to become carbon-neutral by 2045. That’s a huge deal.
In order to stay below the Paris climate threshold of 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, humanity must become carbon-neutral by around 2060 or 2070. If California can meet Brown’s target, it will be providing the rest of the world a blueprint for meeting the Paris target. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California can provide a powerful roadmap for others to follow.
Brown’s executive order directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to work with relevant state agencies to develop a framework for implementation and accounting of progress toward statewide carbon neutrality. While state agencies can figure out a plan to achieve carbon neutrality, the state legislature will have to pass laws to implement that plan.
California has been all-in on tackling climate change, as its carbon cap and trade system and SB 100 illustrate, but Californians will have to keep electing climate realists to state office in order to make the dream of carbon neutrality a reality.
Carbon-free electricity is just a start
SB 100 tackles the electricity sector, but because California has long been transitioning toward clean energy, electricity now only accounts for 16% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for the biggest chunk at 41%. Brown has been pushing for a transition to electric cars, signing another executive order earlier this year setting a goal of 5m EVs on the road by 2030, and several bills last week to help expand their use.
While California has the most EVs on the road today (both total and per capita) of any state, they still only account for 5% of new car sales, with 380,000 sold so far. Accelerating that transition toward EVs is crucial for meeting the carbon neutrality goal, and it’s the main reason why California is fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to freeze fuel efficiency standards and take away the state’s ability to set its own.
The industrial sector accounts for another 23% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. About half of that comes from the petroleum industry – predominantly from drilling for oil and natural gas, as well as oil refining. California is the fourth-largest oil producing state. The Trump administration wants to increase that number and is contemplating opening 1.6 million acres in California held by the Bureau of Land Management to fracking and oil drilling. But a wiser future president could revoke those drilling leases on federal lands, and California could ban drilling and fracking on state lands. That’s a bridge too far for Jerry Brown, and protesters have been criticizing him for it, but it’s easy to imagine a future governor taking this step.
Agriculture and forestry account for another 8% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The state is already launching a Healthy Soils Initiative to increase carbon sequestration via farming. For example, one pilot project is monitoring how much carbon will be stored by clover planted between trees at an almond orchard. The University of California at Davis is also conducting experiments to evaluate how changing livestock feed can reduce methane emissions from cattle.
Another 7% comes from the residential sector, most of which is due to burning natural gas for heating and cooking. But stoves, hot water heaters, and heating units can be replaced by electric appliances powered by California’s increasingly carbon-free energy. Last week, Brown also signed a bill directing CARB to study ways of cutting carbon pollution from residential and commercial buildings.
In short, there are a lot of feasible ways that California can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and approach carbon neutrality. The plan will may also include some degree of carbon offsetting and carbon capture and sequestration to get the state’s emissions down to (or below) zero by 2045. It’s a daunting but achievable goal.
A stark contrast to the backward-looking Trump EPA
In contrast, the Trump administration has been doing everything in its power to increase carbon pollution for the sake of industry profits. In its latest polluting move, the Trump EPA plans to scrap two regulations aimed at reducing methane pollution from oil and gas wells.
According to EPA’s own analysis, repealing a regulation requiring that oil and gas wells be monitored for methane leaks every six months will add 8.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere over a six-year period. It will save the oil and gas industry, whose annual profits exceed $100bn, $75m per year. That’s the equivalent carbon pollution of adding more than 300,000 cars on the road in order to give the oil & gas industry a 0.07% revenue boost.
Levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are already rising. The Trump EPA wants to further loosen rules on leaks and releases by the oil and gas industry.https://t.co/O2kfhELrA3 pic.twitter.com/wmXqDyzgjg
— InsideClimate News (@insideclimate) September 12, 2018
It’s hard to imagine a starker contrast. The Trump administration is making America the stupidest country in the world on climate change, while the Democrats running California are creating a roadmap to show the world how to meet the Paris climate target. And the GOP is running away from California and toward Trump.
— Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) September 14, 2018
by Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian