California’s greenhouse gas pollution levels fell below 1990 levels for the first time since the American state’s emissions peaked in 2004, new Air Resources Board data has shown – and several years before the target date of 2020.
According to data published this week by the state’s Air Resources Board, emissions in the west coast state were down to 429 million metric tonnes – a drop of 12 million metric tonnes, or 3 per cent, from 2015 levels, and just slightly below 1990 levels of 431 million metric tonnes.
California’s carbon pollution has dropped 13 per cent since 2004, at the same time as its economy has grown by 26 per cent – maintaining its per-capita emissions as among the lowest in the United States.
The “carbon intensity” of California’s economy – the amount of carbon pollution emitted per $1 million of gross state product – dropped 38 per cent since the 2001 peak and is now one-half of the national average.
Further, according to the Board, California now produces twice as many goods and services for the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the rest of the United States – making good on its green promises and leadership.
“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “The next step is for California to cut emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 – a heroic and very ambitious goal.”
Mary D. Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said the state was well positioned to meet the next challenge of the 2030 target.
“This is great news for the health of Californians, the state’s environment and its economy, even as we face the failure of our national leadership to address climate change,” she said.
While across the board figures were record-breaking, not every industry within California was pulling their weight. The transportation sector – which accounted for 41 per cent of total emissions – increased its emissions in 2016 by 2 per cent due to increased fuel consumption.
Conversely, however, California’s cars and trucks used a record amount of biofuels in 2016 – 1.5 billion gallons (5.6 billion litres) – urged on by the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
Emissions from California’s industrial sector were second with 23 per cent of total emissions, falling 2 per cent from 2015 levels even as emissions from refineries increased slightly.
According to CARB, the primary driver for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas levels has been its Renewables Portfolio Standard, the Advanced Clean Cars Program, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and the Cap-and-Trade Program.