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Global Efforts Needed to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions



California generates only 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the state is making headway to curb those emissions, the latest California Energy Commission tracking progress report explains why the state cannot solve the challenge alone.

California’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is on track, but more action must happen globally, according to the report.

“Global issues need global solutions,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “However, by our climate actions, California is showing the world that we can grow our economy while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of our changing climate by enhancing the resilience of our communities.”

In 2015, nearly 200 nations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris agreed to a commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a 2 degree Celsius increase in global average temperature above preindustrial levels. Since then, the United States is the only nation to express its plan to withdraw from the agreement.

California, other states, regional governments, and nations – including China, Germany, Japan, and Mexico – have endorsed international agreements that address greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. Yet, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have remained, at best, constant.

In 2015, California and the German state of Baden-Württemberg spearheaded the subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding, called the Under2 MOU. Signatories to the global pact agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capital annual emissions target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050.

More than 220 governments have agreed to one of the two goals, including Ontario, Canada; Budapest City, Hungary; Catalonia, Spain; Jiangsu Province, China; Victoria, Australia; and Nampula City, Mozambique.

California has proven governments can succeed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions. California’s leadership includes legislation, such as Senate Bill 32, which aims to reduce California’s greenhouse gases emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and Assembly Bill 197, which ensures the implementation of state climate-change policies is transparent with the benefits reaching disadvantaged communities. Both bills were signed into law in 2016.

California is well on its way to achieving the precursor of Senate Bill 32. Assembly Bill 32, which calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, became law in 2006.

In 2018, California achieved another landmark with the signing of Senate Bill 100, which increases the Renewables Portfolio Standard target to 60 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and sets a target of 100 percent zero-carbon electricity resources by 2045.

Energy Commission programs that help achieve these goals include building and appliance standards to help double energy efficiency savings, fueling infrastructure to encourage zero-emission vehicles, more renewable energy sources to decarbonize the electricity grid, and a robust research and development effort to foster clean tech innovation.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector has helped advance California’s climate goals. In 2016, electricity sector emissions were nearly 38 percent below 1990 emissions levels, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Further evidence of California’s success is a per person decline of greenhouse gas emission of about 23 percent from 2001 to 2016. Reducing greenhouse gases has not hurt the economy. Since 2000, California’s gross domestic product has grown 46 percent compared to 35 percent by the rest of the country, according to the tracking progress report.

California’s leadership in addressing climate change demonstrates how an economy can be decarbonized without affecting its growth.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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