California’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality draws criticism

Sacramento, California — Heat waves and droughts sweeping through California have highlighted the urgent need to cut fossil fuel use and remove greenhouse emissions from the air, a senior state official said Thursday as discussions begin over a new proposal for how the state could meet ambitious climate goals.

“I think every Californian knows today that we are in a climate emergency,” said Jared Blumenfield, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “So what we are doing today is taking on additional importance and urgency.”

He spoke as the California Air Resources Board opened a hearing on a plan, updated twice a decade, that lays out a climate change roadmap for the state. This year’s plan focuses on achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, which means the country will remove the amount of carbon from the air it emits.

The timeline is among the most ambitious in the country and in the world, but the proposal has many critics outside the oil industry. Many environmental advocates say the plan does very little to quickly reduce greenhouse emissions.

“How we achieve our climate goals is as important as what we achieve, and we need a plan for true zero, not net zero,” said Catherine Garuba White, plan member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and executive director of the center. Air Quality Valley Coalition.

California is often described as a leader in US climate policy and has put in place some of the strictest rules to regulate vehicle emissions. The size of California’s economy—larger than that of most states—means that the state’s climate policies can often lead to major changes in business. The 2045 carbon neutrality target is matched only by Hawaii among states, and it tracks targets set by other major economies such as Germany.

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The country will reach its goal by combining a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the use of technology to remove any remaining emissions from the air. Council employees estimate that it will reduce demand for petroleum throughout the economy and use of fossil natural gas in buildings by 91% by 2045.

Doing so would require 30 times more electric vehicles on the road than today, six times more electrical appliances in homes, four times more wind and solar power generation, and 60 times more hydrogen.

Such a sweeping shift would cut state emissions by 78% by 2045. Some observers suggest that Washington and New York, two Democratic-led states, have more ambitious goals for direct emissions reductions, 95% and 85%, respectively.

Although the timelines don’t offer perfect comparisons, the two states are “pushing harder and farther,” said Danny Collinward, an attorney and climate economist who serves on the California Carbon Pricing Program Oversight Board.

Critics of environmental groups say California’s plan does not call for deep enough emissions cuts, relies too much on unproven, energy-intensive decarbonization technology and lacks focus on whether the state is close to meeting its most urgent 2030 emissions goals. Concerns about decarbonization technology follow concerns. world on how best to deal with emissions targets.

California’s proposal is based on removing 80 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air in 2045. That amount of removal represents the “highest risk scenario” for meeting the state’s climate goals, according to an October 2020 analysis by Environmental + Energy Economics, an outside organization. A consulting firm was hired by the Air Council to model the various proposals.

Leanne Randolph, president of the Air Resources Council, noted that the plan calls for a significant reduction in gas-powered household appliances and a shift to electric-powered vehicles. However, the demand for fossil fuels will not fall to zero, she said.

“There seems to be a feeling that we somehow prefer mechanical decarbonization and leave strategies on the table in an effort to impress, and make room for that, which is not the case,” she said in an interview before the meeting. he heard.

The oil industry, for its part, said the plan imposes too many unworkable bans and mandates and will drive up prices. Western States Petroleum Association President Katherine Rhees Boyd wrote in a letter Wednesday to Association President Anthony Rendon that state-wide energy policies, including those in the scale plan, are contributing to higher fuel costs.

The level of carbon removal required by the air panel plan requires cleaner energy, said Howard Herzog, chief research engineer with the MIT Energy Initiative.

“One of the biggest hurdles is finding enough carbon-neutral energy to scale up to that level,” Herzog said.

The plan expects electricity demand to rise 68% as more people drive electric cars and ditch gas stoves and other household appliances.

At the moment, carbon sequestration is not widely used, although the Biden administration is spending billions to intensify it.

The scoping plan analyzes for the first time the role that natural and working lands, such as forests and farms, will play in raising or lowering emissions. The modeling on which the plan is based is based on the assumption that such land would draw carbon from the air. But the plan later found it would likely contribute to emissions through 2045, mostly from wildfires or related forest management. The Air Council may be calling for more on CO2 removal to account for those additional emissions.

The Air Council consists of 14 members, most of whom are appointed by the governor. They represent the local weather zones, environmental sanitation and agricultural communities, and the transportation system. They will approve the final plan by the end of the year.

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