ORIGINAL REPORTING: California, The Climate Crisis, And Carbon Emissions
California may be a climate leader, but it could be a century behind on its carbon goals: study; Power sector progress is masking the need to address emissions in transportation and industry.
Herman K. Trabish, Oct. 29, 2019 (Utility Dive)
California just got sobering news that despite its nation-leading renewables build, it may be a century late in achieving its ambitious climate goals…The shift to renewables allowed California to meet its 2020 mandate to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels four years early, according to an Oct. 8 Next 10 report. But the state's GHG reduction rate must be three times faster to get to the next target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, Next 10 found.
At California's GHG reduction rate in 2017, the most recent year detailed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), it would reach its 2030 goal in 2061 and its 2050 goal of emitting 80% below 1990 levels in 2157, "a 31-year and a 107-year delay." But those projections may miss what can happen in the next decade if California can turn its linear work on reducing GHGs into exponential reductions, stakeholders told Utility Dive. That big "if" will require unprecedented work in so-far unresponsive sectors of the economy, they added.
Power sector emissions reductions attributable to renewable energy additions masked growth in California's transportation, building and industrial sectors, the report found. Economic growth drove transportation emissions to a record high in 2017. And wildfire emissions, which were higher than commercial, residential or agriculture sector GHGs in 2017, were worse in 2018.
"The optimism in this sobering report is that California has made itself a climate leader with policies and regulations and with entrepreneurs rising to the challenge," Next 10 Founder Noel Perry told Utility Dive. "New policies and regulations can create new solutions."
Before 2016, CARB numbers showed California would need to reduce its GHGs 3.92% per year to achieve its 2030 goal. But the state only reduced its emissions 1.15% between 2016 and 2017, so now it must cut GHGs 4.51% per year to achieve that goal, Next 10 found.
A major factor in the lower reduction rate was the state's economic growth. Many argued adding variable renewables would slow economic growth, but not in California, where gross domestic product per capita grew 3.1% in 2017, renewables made up over 25% of electric power and power sector emissions fell 1.8%. As part of that economic growth, in 2017, a record 80.6 out of every 100 Californians owned a vehicle. And "super commutes" of 90 minutes or more increased as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) grew 0.5% from 2016 to 2017. As a result, transportation emissions hit 41.1%, up from 40.4%... click here for more