Aggressive California Emissions Policies Fall Short of State Climate Targets

Aggressive California Emissions Policies Fall Short of State Climate Targets
The buildings of downtown Los Angeles are seen near Pasadena, Calif., on Nov. 5, 2019. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

California has the most strict vehicle fuel efficiency standards in the country, broad climate change policies, and was the nation’s first state to adopt an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. But despite all of these efforts, the Golden State isn’t on track to meet its own carbon emission goals.

California may be on track to miss its climate targets by more than 100 years, according to the California Green Innovation Index.

In 2018, the Golden State passed a landmark law that would make 100 percent of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources by the end of 2045.

California’s emission standards dictate that the state should cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. But considering that the state’s climate pollution only declined by 1.15 percent in 2017, California would only hit its 2030 targets by 2061 and its 2050 targets by 2157.

According to MIT Technology Review senior editor for energy James Temple, a large portion of the problem with the state’s lagging climate progress is due to transportation.

As the state’s largest source of carbon emissions, the sector has yet to see a drop in emission levels since 2013. And as the economy improves, said Temple, more people will be driving cars and flying on planes, keeping the levels of emissions high.

Furthermore, waste dumped into landfills and gases from cleaning products and solvents used in air conditioning units and refrigerators are also rising. All of this, Temple explained, “have offset the highly touted declines in emissions from the electricity sector as a growing share of the state’s power comes from renewable sources like wind and solar.”

But a growing economy isn’t the only reason why these emissions are on the rise, said William Seavey, an author, green living advocate, and founding board member of Hopes Village, a sustainable community village for homeless veterans, to The Epoch Times.

“[The state’s large] population is an impediment to the states’ climate goals,” he said.

With a population of 40 million and electric cars accounting for less than one percent of registered vehicles in the state, according to DMV statistics (pdf), Seavey believes it’s unrealistic to think that the majority will be driving electric vehicles or getting their electricity from solar panels in the near future. However, other factors are also increasing emissions.

“Can you imagine how much carbon has gone up into the atmosphere due to [the recent fires]? This is happening every fall and our major utility is negligent in not keeping lines away from trees, which become extremely flammable when winds arise,” he said. “There’s no quick cure.”

Steve Goreham, an author focusing on sustainability, climate change, and energy who serves as a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, said that California’s current climate mandates may not necessarily be what’s best for the state.

“[Such] mandates will likely more than double wholesale electricity prices over the next two decades,” he told The Epoch Times. In addition, “mandates for solar rooftops and electric car hookups, along with natural gas bans for new housing, will boost the cost of housing and add to the homelessness problem.”

Considering that California has the nation’s largest poverty rate in the country, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the rising cost of both electricity and housing may end up forcing more people to leave.

Perhaps, Goreham said, meeting California’s climate goals might not even achieve the desired results, even if all of these mandates produce a considerable cut of emissions.

“It’s not clear that all of this activity will have the slightest effect on global temperatures,” he told The Epoch Times. “Decades of California’s climate efforts are wiped out by only six months of China’s emissions growth.”