SACRAMENTO, Calif. ( Associated Press) — The heatwaves and drought sweeping California highlight the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel use and eliminate planet-warming emissions, a senior state official said Thursday during a discussion of the state’s new plan to meet climate targets.
“I think every Californian today knows that we are living in a climate emergency,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
He spoke as the California Air Resources Board opened hearings on the country’s most populous state’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. This means that the state will remove as much carbon from the air as it emits. The timeline is among the most ambitious in the country and in the world, but few public comments were pleased with the state’s plan to reach the milestone.
Environmental groups, scientists and people living in heavily polluted areas have said the plan does not do enough to reduce the production or use of fossil fuels. In the meantime, some business, industry and labor groups have said the transition could drive up prices and hurt workers.
“How we achieve our climate goals matters as much as when we achieve them, and we need a plan to achieve real zero, not net zero,” said Katherine Garupa White, member of the Environmental Advisory Committee. equity and executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition.
Air council members will have their own discussion of the plan on Friday. The 14-member board is made up of political appointees with experience in local aviation councils, the transportation sector, environmental justice communities and agriculture.
California is often cited as a leader in US climate policy and has established some of the most aggressive vehicle emissions regulations. The size of California’s economy – larger than most countries – means that the state’s climate policy can often lead to major business changes. Its carbon neutrality goal by 2045 is only matched by Hawaii among states, and is in line with targets set by other major economies such as Germany.
The state will achieve its goal by reducing the use of fossil fuels and using technology to remove any remaining emissions into the atmosphere. The Board of Directors estimates that by 2045, this will reduce the demand for oil in the economy and the use of fossil natural gas in buildings by 91 percent.
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This will require 30 times more electric vehicles on the road than today, six times more electrical appliances in homes, four times more wind and solar power, and 60 times more hydrogen.
Such a rapid transition would reduce the state’s emissions by about 78 percent by 2045. Some observers note that Washington and New York, the Democratic-led states, have more ambitious direct emission reduction targets of 95 percent and 85 percent respectively, although the proposals don’t offer perfect comparisons.
Critics from environmental groups say California’s plan doesn’t cut emissions deep enough and relies too heavily on unproven and energy-intensive carbon capture and removal methods. The concern about such technology stems from global concerns about the best way to meet emissions targets.
The meeting became tense in the middle of the day when environmental justice advocates who had been gathering outside entered the hearing room and began to sing and chant a speaker representing business interests. The Air Council briefly suspended the meeting as chants of protest against the use of fossil fuels continued.
Environmentalists said they thought business and fossil fuel representatives were given more favorable speaking venues.
“There are no two sides to this issue,” said Ari Eisenstadt, head of the Regenerate California campaign to move away from fossil fuels.
George Peppas, president of the chamber of commerce south of Los Angeles, criticized the board for allowing a break. He said moving away from gas-powered cars would cut gas tax revenues, which are critical for road maintenance, and that electric cars would be too expensive for many people.
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The plan suggests that demand for electricity will rise by 68 percent as more people drive electric vehicles and get rid of gas stoves and other appliances.
Some environmental justice advocates say that electric cars may not be affordable for many people, but instead the answer should lie in increasing investment in public transport. Deprived areas often bear the brunt of fossil fuel pollution.
“We need clean air and reliable public transportation,” said Carla Monsivais, a resident of the Barrio Logan neighborhood in San Diego.
The California proposal is based on removing 80 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air in 2045. According to an October 2020 analysis by Environmental + Energy Economics, this amount of removal represents the “highest risk scenario” for achieving the state’s climate goals. a consulting firm hired by an airline to model various proposals.
Currently, carbon capture is not widely adopted, although the Biden administration is spending billions to expand it. Some speakers supported the technology-based plan.
“Deep decarbonization depends on a lot of options,” said Alex Kizer, senior vice president of research and analysis for the Energy Futures Initiative, a group led by former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “We see (carbon capture and sequestration) as one of the most valuable decarbonization solutions for the country and especially for the state.”