The US state of California has cut its greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels for the first time.
Emissions have been reduced by 13 percent since their 2004 peak, equal to taking 12 million cars off the road. At the same time, its economy, now the fifth largest in the world, grew by 26 percent.
Under a 2006 law passed by the then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California must reduce its emissions to 431 million metric tons by 2020 – the same as they were in 1990. Data released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) shows that as of 2016 the level was at 429 million tons. This is a three percent drop since 2015.
A new law passed two years ago commits the state to go even further by 2030, reducing emissions to 40 percent below this level – at 260 million tons.
“California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said current Governor Jerry Brown. “The next step is for California to cut emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 – a heroic and very ambitious goal.”
The greatest falls were seen in the electricity sector which managed to reduce emissions by 18 percent thanks to the growth in renewable energy. At the same time, solar power rose by 33 percent in the state.
A suite of policies from the government have helped bring about the transformation, including a low-carbon fuel standard, renewables incentives and America’s first carbon trading programme.
“In California we see the impacts of climate change all around us, but our efforts to curb its worst impacts are on track. We are well positioned to meet the challenge of the 2030 target,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “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.”
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