California Achieves First Emissions Goal Early

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that the state has achieved the first emissions goal that was established in 2006, with levels dropping below 431 million metric tons seen in 1990.  The data shows that greenhouse gas pollution fell by 2.7 percent in 2016 to 429.4 million metric tons, meeting the law’s deadline of 2020.

First Emissions GoalEmissions have fallen by 13 percent overall since the peak levels that were seen in 2004.  The increased employment of renewable power has played a large role in the reduction of emission levels.  According to CARB the development and use of solar electricity increased by 33 percent in 2016.  At the same time, natural gas use fell more than 15 percent.

The biggest contributor to greenhouse gas levels was the transportation sector, accounting for 41 percent of all emissions. The industrial sector which includes refineries, cement plants, and oil and gas extraction, was the next biggest contributor responsible for just under a quarter of all emissions.  At the same time, as farmers and ranchers are continually regulated to meet emissions standards, agriculture was only responsible for eight percent of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in California in 2016.

The next set of challenges may be a bit more difficult to achieve than the first emissions goal.  State law requires that by 2030 emissions need to be 40 percent below 1990 levels.  For that to occur emissions levels would need to be reduced by nearly 13 million metric tons every year.  On top of that, an executive order from Governor Brown stipulates that emissions must fall by 80 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2050.

The greenhouse gas inventory is released every year by CARB as a means to identify and address all of the emissions that are associated with California’s economy.  The measurements have limitations such as the exclusion of emissions that come from wildfires, which can often be responsible for negating an entire year’s efforts in emission reduction.