SACRAMENTO – California’s aviation regulators were scheduled to vote Thursday on an ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions in the state by changing practices in the energy, transportation and agriculture sectors, but critics say it doesn’t go far enough to tackle climate change .
The plan puts the state on track for so-called carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning California will remove as much carbon emissions from the atmosphere as it emits. This requires a rapid reduction in emissions that are warming the planet and an upgrade in technology to remove remaining greenhouse gases from the air.
California had previously set that goal as a goal, but Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law making it a mandate earlier this year.
Carbon capture is one of the most controversial elements of the proposal. Critics say it gives the state’s biggest emitters reason not to do enough to mitigate climate change.
Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph touted the latest version of the plan as the most ambitious yet. It was changed following public comments earlier this year.
“Ultimately, achieving carbon neutrality requires using every tool at our disposal to reduce emissions and store carbon,” Randolph 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 energy sources. It calls on the state to cut demand for liquid petroleum fuels by 94% by 2045 and quadruple solar and wind capacity over the same period.
Calls to drastically reduce dependency on oil and gas come as officials continue to grapple with how to avoid blackouts when record-breaking heatwaves have Californians cranking up their air conditioning.
Officials hope a move away from gas-powered cars and trucks will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while limiting the public health impact of the chemicals released by these vehicles.
In a July letter to the Air Board, Newsom urged the agency to approve aggressive emissions cuts from aircraft, a move that would go hand in hand with other reductions in the transportation sector if the state moves to all zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035.
The plan’s goals include meeting 10% of aviation fuel needs from electric or hydrogen sources by 2045 and ensuring that all medium-duty vehicles sold are emission-free by 2040. The board has already passed a policy banning the sale of new vehicles powered only by gasoline in the state by 2035.
The plan identifies carbon capture as a “necessary tool” to be implemented in the state alongside other climate change mitigation strategies. It calls on the state to capture and store 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent underground by 2045.
Connie Cho, an attorney with environmental justice group Communities for a Better Environment, called the plan “a major step forward” in curbing climate change and protecting public health.
“Our communities have suffered from chronic disease and are dying disproportionately for far too long because of the legacy of environmental racism in this country,” Cho said.
But Cho has criticized his carbon capture targets, arguing that they give refiners a way to continue polluting while the state cuts emissions elsewhere.
One of the targets is to reduce methane emissions from agriculture by 66% by 2045. Cattle are a significant source of the release of methane, a potent, planet-warming gas.
Implementation of the plan would also mean less dependence of the agricultural sector on fossil fuels as an energy source.