California’s aggressive climate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “lacks a clear strategy,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported on Jan. 4.
“Despite the significant reductions needed to meet these goals, CARB’s plan does not identify which specific policies it will implement,” the report stated.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) in December 2022 adopted an “equity-focused” 300-page climate action plan, or roadmap, to meet the state’s goal of drastically reducing emissions and reaching carbon neutrality by 2045.
The agency also adopted a more ambitious goal for 2030, seeking to reduce emissions by 48 percent—instead of the statutory mandate’s 40 percent—below the 1990 level.
The analyst’s office said that without a clear roadmap, state departments will be forced to identify and adopt necessary policy changes in a short time, which could make the process “costlier and/or disruptive for private businesses and households.”
According to the report, CARB’s plan is unclear about how much the state will rely on financial incentives, regulatory programs, or cap-and-trade—a government program that puts a cap on emissions and requires companies to pay for extra allowances—to achieve these goals.
The plan also didn’t provide the state Legislature with enough information on potential financial and environmental impacts, among other concerns, according to the report.
“Failing to develop a credible plan … could adversely affect California’s ability to serve as an effective model for other jurisdictions or demonstrate global leadership,” the report stated.
The office has recommended the Legislature direct CARB to submit a report by July 31 to clarify its plan.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, speaks to reporters during a visit the Antioch Water Treatment Plant in Antioch, Calif., on Aug. 11, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In November 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded the plan, calling it “the most ambitious set of climate goals of any jurisdiction in the world” that will “spur an economic transformation akin to the industrial revolution.”
The plan reflected the governor’s call for more aggressive climate measures and a faster transition to clean energy. It aims to cut air pollution by 71 percent and reduce the consumption and demand of fossil fuel by 86 percent and 94 percent, respectively, by 2045.
The state has reduced emissions by about 1 percent annually over the past decade. To meet CARB’s goals, the state would need to speed up to about 4 percent, the analyst’s office said.
Most of the transformation would come from reducing the presence of fossil fuels as much as possible, including phasing out the use of natural gas for heating homes and buildings. It also means clamping down on chemicals and refrigerants and encouraging residents to walk, bike, and use public transit instead of driving.
The plan also introduced four potential scenarios of how the state might become carbon neutral between 2035 and 2045, each with different levels of restrictions on residents and businesses.
The first path, also the most restrictive, includes phasing out all fossil fuel refining in the state; reducing vehicle miles traveled by 30 percent; and allowing only electric vehicles on the road—all by 2035. It also calls for reducing heating, air conditioning, and water heaters in buildings and replacing them with electric appliances by the same year. Cutting dairy methane emissions—or cow manure emissions—by 50 to 75 percent by reducing the state’s dairy cow population is also mandated in this case.
Other assumed scenarios allow longer transition time, with fewer restrictions but accelerated removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.