California emissions reach milestone — 1990 levels

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2018

California has reached its greenhouse gas target of 1990 levels four years early, regulators announced yesterday.

The state’s 2016 emissions came in at 429.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — just under the 2020 target of 431 million tons, indicating the state is well on track to meeting its more ambitious target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

It’s the first time the state’s emissions have dropped below 1990 levels since they peaked in 2004; last year’s inventory, of 2015 emissions, found the state was at 440 million tons. The difference between the 2004 peak and 1990 levels is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 12 million cars.

“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said in a statement.

The drop is good news for Brown, who is hosting a climate summit in September aimed at strengthening governments’ commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement that President Trump repudiated last year.

“It’s good news for the state and the planet as we head into the governor’s summit,” said Chris Busch, director of research at advisory firm Energy Innovation.

Power-sector emissions declined significantly in 2016, while transportation emissions ticked up slightly, by 2 percent, to make up 41 percent of the state’s total emissions. The 18 percent decline in electricity emissions was partly due to the return of hydropower after the state’s historic drought. Buildings’ emissions increased 1.5 percent, while industrial emissions fell 2 percent.

Per capita, Californians emitted 10.8 metric tons in 2016, down from a 2001 peak of 14 tons per person. That’s about half the national average, the California Air Resources Board said. The inventory doesn’t include catastrophic, accidental releases like the 2.5-million-ton leak from the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in 2015 and 2016.