California Air Resources Board (CARB)

California’s latest greenhouse gas data shows that while the state continues to stay below its 2020 target for emissions, there is much more work to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The California Air Resources Board today released GHG emissions data for 2018, showing that emissions remain below 1990 levels but are virtually flat compared to 2017, while the economy grew by 4.3 percent. The data shows a slight increase in overall emissions from the previous year and a slight decline in transportation emissions, which is the state’s leading source of both GHGs and air pollutants.

In Executive Order N-79-20 issued September 23, Governor Newsom recognized that achieving our air quality and climate goals hinge on transforming the state’s transportation sector. In that EO, the Governor boldly calls for 100 percent sales of zero light-duty emission vehicles by 2035. The Governor issued a second Executive Order N-82-20 on October 7 to store and remove carbon from the atmosphere and establishing a goal of conserving at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030.

“Those two groundbreaking Executive Orders paired with the accelerated and increasingly stringent goals of the state’s existing climate policies will be key to reaching the 2030 target and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “And CARB will continue to develop additional initiatives that support our long-term goals, as well.”

The Road to 2030 & Beyond

California’s battle against the worst impacts of climate change currently focuses on four basic programs: the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), the cap-and-trade program, the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, and the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). These programs cover transportation fuels, industrial emissions, vehicle emissions, and emissions from electricity generation. All these climate programs have considerably more stringent emissions reduction targets starting in 2021.

The industry is already increasing the use of alternatives to petroleum diesel, including renewable diesel and biodiesel. This is in response to market signals from the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, including recent announcements by California refiners to convert their facilities to produce 100 percent cleaner renewable fuels, keeping jobs and economic activity in the state.

CARB has approved additional measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from so-called super pollutants that must also be reduced dramatically. Those pollutants include fugitive methane, hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, and other chemicals with global warming impact tens to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. Because of these products’ enormous potential impact, reducing their emissions has a disproportionate benefit to the environment.

CARB has also approved a method for quantifying carbon capture and sequestration projects as part of the LCFS. This technology allows emitters to capture the carbon generated by their operations and sequester it underground in secure rock formations. The staff also evaluates direct air capture technology, which sucks GHGs out of the air for sequestration.

Climate change, drought, and wildfire drive the loss of carbon from California’s forest and working lands, such as rangeland, wetlands, farms, urban green space, and soil itself. California and its partners have also embarked on an effort to reverse the loss of sequestered carbon in the state’s lands.

CARB continues to design these programs to provide appropriate incentives for Californians and their businesses, making the shift to a low carbon economy. Other state agencies such as the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission have also developed programs to put in place electric vehicle charging infrastructure and an array of energy efficiency standards. Those include further developing rules for decarbonization of homes and other buildings.

2018 Emissions Details

The total statewide 2018 GHG emissions were 425.3 million metric tons, compared to 424.5 million metric tons in 2017. That remains six million metric tons below the 2020 target.

Transportation emissions declined 1.5 million metric tons between 2017 and 2018, the first such decline since 2013.

Per capita, GHG emissions in California have dropped from a 2001 peak of 14.0 tons per person to 10.7 tons per person in 2018, a 24 percent decrease.