California approves roadmap for carbon neutrality by 2045

California approves roadmap for carbon neutrality by 2045

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California air regulators voted unanimously Thursday to approve an ambitious plan to dramatically reduce dependence on fossil fuels by changing practices in energy, transportation and agriculture, but critics say it doesn’t go far enough to tackle climate change.

The plan aims to achieve so-called carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning the state will remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as it emits. It aims to do this in part by reducing demand for fossil fuels by 86% over this period.

California had previously set that carbon neutral goal, but Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation making it a mandate earlier this year. The Democrat said drastic changes were needed to position California as a global climate leader.

“We are making history here in California,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday.

But the plan’s road to approval by the California Air Resources Board was not without criticism. Capturing large amounts of carbon and storing it underground is one of the most controversial elements of the proposal. Critics say it gives the state’s largest emitters a reason not to do enough to mitigate climate change.

In a meeting that lasted several hours, activists, residents and experts used their last chance to weigh in on the plan ahead of the council vote. Many said that the latest version, while not perfect, was an improvement over previous versions.committing the state to do more to reduce global warming emissions.

Board member Davina Hurt said she’s proud California is moving closer to its carbon neutral goal.

“I’m glad this plan is bold and aggressive,” Hurt said.

The plan does not commit the state to specific actions, but sets out a broad roadmap for how California can achieve its goals. Here are the highlights:


Implementation of the plan depends on the state’s ability to move away from fossil fuels and rely more on renewable resources for energy. It calls on the state to reduce demand for liquid petroleum fuel by 94% by 2045 and quadruple solar and wind capacity over the same period.

Another goal would mean that new residential and commercial buildings will be powered by electrical appliances before the next decade.

Calls to drastically reduce dependence on oil and gas come as public officials continue to grapple with how to avoid outages during record heatwaves. push Californians to increase their air conditioning.

At the start of Thursday’s meeting, California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph presented the latest version of the plan as the most ambitious yet. It underwent changes after public feedback earlier this year.

“Ultimately, achieving carbon neutrality requires deploying all the tools at our disposal to reduce emissions and store carbon,” Randolph said.


Officials hope the move away from gas-powered cars and trucks will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while limiting the public health impact of the chemicals these vehicles release.

In a July letter at the air board, Newsom asked the agency to approve aggressive cuts in aircraft emissions. That would accompany further reductions in the transportation sector as the state transitions to all sales of zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

The plan’s targets include 20% of aviation fuel demand coming from electric or hydrogen sources by 2045 and all medium-duty vehicles sold being zero emissions by 2040. The council has already adopted a policy to ban the sale of new gasoline-only cars in the state from 2035.


The plan refers to carbon capture as a “necessary tool” to be implemented in the state alongside other strategies to mitigate climate change. It calls on the state to capture 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and store it underground by 2045.

Connie Cho, a lawyer with environmental justice group Communities for a Better Environment, called the plan a “big step forward” in mitigating climate change and protecting public health.

“Our communities have been suffering from chronic disease and dying at disproportionate rates for far too long because of the legacy of environmental racism in this country,” Cho said.

But Cho criticized his carbon capture targets, arguing that they allow refineries to continue polluting while the state cuts emissions in other areas.


One of the goals is to achieve a 66% reduction in methane emissions from the agricultural sector by 2045. Livestock are a major source of methane release, a potent gas that warms the planet.

Implementing the plan would also mean less dependence of the agricultural sector on fossil fuels as a source of energy.


This story has been updated to correct the plan’s focus on demand for aviation fuel from electric or hydrogen sources. It’s 20%, not 10%.


Sophie Austin is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophieadanna

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