California Cuts Carbon Emissions Even as Economy Hums

(CN) – California’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped again in 2017, air quality regulators reported Monday, and the dive occurred without hurting the Golden State’s raging economy.


An annual report released by the California Air Resources Board says the state’s economy grew by 3.6% even as its emissions fell well below a target set by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. This means California remains on track to meet its goal of cutting emissions to 431 million metric tons by 2020, and has a good shot at reducing emissions to less than 300 million metric tons by 2030.

“This is further evidence that California’s groundbreaking climate regulations are helping to deliver the greenhouse gas reductions needed to meet our 2020 target – and give us a running start at our even more ambitious 2030 target, too,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.

The report studied greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 to 2017. It divides emissions into six major sectors, with transportation being the largest polluter in the state at 40% of total emissions, followed by oil and gas refineries (21%) and electric power production (14.7%).

Fuel burned for residential and commercial use like cooking, heating, refrigeration and air conditioning contributed 9.7%, up just slightly from 2016.

The electricity sector saw the biggest drop in emissions, falling by 9% in 2017 compared to 2016. The report credits the drop to the Golden State getting 52% of its electricity from so-called renewable energy sources.

It notes that for the first time since the state started to track greenhouse gas emissions, California uses more electricity from solar, wind, hydropower and nuclear sources. Solar power generation alone grew 26% between 2016 and 2017.

While the transportation sector contributes the most to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, the rate of emissions has slowed compared to the previous three years. Emissions in the sector remained constant from 2000 to 2007, declined in 2013, then increased by 6% from 2013 to 2017.

The report attributes higher fuel use to population growth, higher employment, and more consumer and economic activity.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said the report is a signal to California to “step up its game” in the transportation arena, touting legislation to introduce a clean vehicle rebate program he hopes will encourage people to buy fuel efficient vehicles.

“I’m glad to see California is ahead of schedule in meeting its overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals. But I continue to be concerned about increases from the transportation sector where passenger vehicles account for most of California’s GHG emissions,” Ting said in a statement. “We must step up our game to move drivers toward zero-emission vehicles. That’s why I’m pushing for bigger clean car rebates through AB 1046. We’ve mandated businesses and industries to change their ways. You and I must do our part too.”

Eight percent of statewide emissions in 2017 came from agriculture, with methane from livestock accounting for 70% of that figure.

The report notes agriculture-related emissions in 2017 were 16% higher than in 2000, and manure continues to be a pernicious factor. To combat this, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has begun giving dairy operators an incentive to salvage manure as biofuel for power generation and transportation. The Air Resources Board has also taken steps to regulate methane emissions from landfills and reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Governor Gavin Newsom hailed the findings in a statement Monday that also reproached President Donald Trump’s continued efforts to roll back regulations on fossil fuel production and vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

“California is proving that smart climate policies are good for our economy and good for the planet,” Newsom said. “As the Trump administration attempts to obliterate national climate protections, California will continue advancing the cause of American climate leadership.”


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