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Article Post

California Plans to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 40% by 2030

graph of California greenhouse gas emissions by sector, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on California Air Resources Board data

In July 2017, California’s state legislature passed assembly bill (AB) 398 to reauthorize and extend until 2030 the state’s economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program. The bill sets a new GHG target of at least 40% below the 1990 level of emissions by 2030. As of 2015, about 86% of California’s GHG emissions were related to the consumption of energy.

The original bill that established the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program, AB 32, passed in 2006 and authorized the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to monitor and regulate sources emitting greenhouse gases. The initial target was to reduce emissions to the 1990 level by 2020. An executive order from California’s governor targets an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050.

From 1990 to 2015, California’s GHG emissions from the electric power sector were reduced by 24%, the largest percentage decline among sectors. Over that same period, commercial and residential sector emissions fell by about 14%, and industrial emissions fell by 13%. Transportation-related emissions declined from 2007 through 2013, but they rose in both 2014 and 2015. California’s GHG emissions from agriculture and other uses, although smaller in magnitude, have more than tripled since 1990. Overall, California’s total GHG emissions were 2% higher than 1990 levels as of 2015.

In 2016, CARB released a scoping plan for the 2030 target that involved continuing existing programs such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program and the state’s renewables portfolio standard. The LCFS program aims to increase the use of biofuels in the transportation sector. California’s renewables portfolio standard sets targets for specific technologies used to generate electricity in the state. The transportation and electric power sectors are the two largest sources of California’s emissions, responsible for 37% and 19% of the state’s GHG emissions, respectively, in 2015.

California’s emissions cap-and-trade program, launched in 2013, is one of the major policies the state is using to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, CARB recommended tightening the program, which would reduce the amount of available emissions credits. Other recommendations from CARB include new regulations that would affect petroleum refinery emissions and double energy efficiency savings by 2030, for example.

Under the current cap-and-trade program, affected emissions sources include electric generators, industrial facilities, and oil and natural gas distributors. Companies in the compliance program have the option to either purchase allowances or directly reduce their emissions. Companies also have the option to finance carbon offset credits, which are earned under a separate program for voluntary projects that lower overall GHG emissions.

California greenhouse gas auction results and settlement prices, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on California Air Resources Board data


In the first auction since the passage of AB 398, allowance prices rose from $13.57 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) for May 2017 to $14.67 per metric ton in subsequent auctions for November 2017. AB 398 established new authority for the ARB to create a CO2 allowance price ceiling, set rules for the banking of allowances, and transfer unsold current vintage allowances to a reserve. California’s next auction is scheduled for February 21, 2018.

In addition to its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the legislative package seeks to reduce other pollutants. A related bill, AB 617, aims to reduce community-level air pollution from criteria pollutants such as particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide emitted by large stationary sources. This bill authorizes CARB to establish a statewide system that consults with local air districts responsible for monitoring air pollution, and it develops a statewide strategy that approves programs that reduce community emissions.

Principal contributor: O. Nilay Manzagol

Original Post

Content Discussion

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 8, 2018

From 1990 to 2015, California’s GHG emissions from the electric power sector were reduced by 24%, the largest percentage decline among sectors. Over that same period, commercial and residential sector emissions fell by about 14%, and industrial emissions fell by 13%.

Nilay, California Air Resources Board data show California emitting 90.5 MMTCO2e in 1990 for electricity, and 83.6 MMTCO2e in 2015 – suggesting California GHG emissions were reduced by 8%, or one-third of your estimate, over the same period.

What’s the specific source of your data?

Thorkil Soee's picture
Thorkil Soee on February 8, 2018

It is easy to set ambitious targets.
Especially, if it shall be implemented by others sometime in the future.
Long time ago, the accident at Three Mile Island vas used to demonize nuclear.
If California shall have any chance to fulfil the ambitious goals, it is high time we understand that nuclear is green – less greenhouse gasses than any other source of energy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 9, 2018

It is high time Thorkil, and there is evidence progress is being made in California.

In September, a bill requiring 60% renewable electricity by 2030 was tabled after legislators couldn’t agree whether to substitute the phrase “zero-carbon” for “renewable”. It seems “zero-carbon” had a disagreeable ring for natural gas and solar interests – it would permit nuclear and large hydro to participate, and they had postponed the vote to the last day of California’s legislative session to avoid scrutiny.

When Senate President Kevin DeLéon, an ardent opponent of natural gas, understood the significance of Big Oil’s objection it (reportedly) set off a vigorous, behind-closed-doors debate, ending in SB 100 being scrapped for the session. Though it will rise from the ashes again this year, key legislators in Sacramento are now aware the bill has nothing to do with the environment, and everything to do with selling more fossil fuel methane.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on February 10, 2018

The EIA graph shows zero CO2eq reduction since 1990.
California is grossly optimistic regarding the goal of 40% less than 1990 by 2030.
There is no way it could achieve that goal, just as Germany will not achieve its 2030 goal.
France, with 75% nuclear, and having the lowest electric rates in west Europe is showing the real way forward.
The sooner various 100% RE yokels realize this, the better for all of us.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on February 10, 2018

So there’s a power-broker in the CA Senate who’s now onto the gas scam?

Might he get behind the movement to save Diablo Canyon?  If so, good news!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 10, 2018

EP, the problem is the power-brokers in the California Assembly, the California Public Utility Commission, and the California Energy Commission who are part of the scam, receiving tens of $thousands from Sempra, Shell, and Chevron in campaign funding; who run gas “consulting services” which receive unknowable sums from the same interests (CEC Chairman Robert Weisenmiller and his “MRW Associates”); or were appointed by Jerry Brown, whose ties to the oil and gas industry are legendary.

Brown’s oversight of oil and gas production in the state has come under scrutiny in recent months due to allegations of significant impropriety. In November, the Associated Press reported that Brown had taken the unusual step of directing state regulators to research the “potential for future oil and gas activity” on his private land. The state’s top oil and gas regulator stepped down amid the ensuing controversy over the misuse of state resources on the governor’s behalf.

And in August, a lawsuit and press reports alleged that Brown had fired oil and gas regulators under pressure from Occidental Petroleum due to their unwillingness to expedite the issuance of drilling permits…

The gas storage well currently releasing record amounts of methane in the Los Angeles community of Porter Ranch is owned by a company where Governor Brown’s sister [Kathleen] is a highly-compensated board member. She also plays an environmental, health and safety oversight role at the company.

At an energy forum last year I had the opportunity to ask soon-to-be-governor Gavin Newsom why, for no obvious reason, there was a big push to close California nuclear plants. His answer was an interesting contradiction. “I, personally, have nothing against nuclear, I know it doesn’t generate any greenhouse gases. But I know I will sleep better after Diablo Canyon is closed,” he said, leading me to believe there are some politicians here who might not know much about it and might be reachable. Room for hope.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on February 10, 2018

Willem, it took me awhile staring at that graph to figure out it’s showing all carbon emissions (electricity, transportation, industrial). The three bluish bands in the center show there were some reductions for electricity – although I accept any graph which is “based on California Air Resources Board data” with some skepticism.

Outsourcing of both California industry and its generation – imports – are huge fudge factors, as is electricity designated “of indeterminate origin” by CARB.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on February 10, 2018

The AB617 law only tries to reduce community level air pollution from stationary sources.
So air pollution from traffic (air- and roadtraffic) seems unaffected.
Strange as those are main polluters….

Considering also that its GHG emissions are still above the 1990 level (Germany is 27% below its much lower 1990 reference level), the question is whether California is serious???

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on February 19, 2018

Newson environmental plan for California: look over there at Trump something.