NEWS Reality Check: Are California’s Carbon Emissions Goals Attainable? (NBC News)

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Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor Jerry Brown announced last week a new plan for reduc­ing the state’s green­house gas emis­sions. The exec­u­tive order calls on the Golden State to decrease car­bon emis­sion rates by 40 per­cent below 1990 lev­els by the year 2030.

I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet,” the gov­er­nor told onlook­ers when he announced the exec­u­tive order last week.

The goal sets a national prece­dent and is on par with the bench­mark set in place by the Euro­pean Union last year — the most ambi­tious tar­get in the world.

Exec­u­tive orders aren’t tech­ni­cally law, but rather set man­dates around which leg­is­la­tion can be written.

The pro­posal will serve as an interim goal estab­lished by the gov­er­nor as the state works toward reach­ing its tar­get of reduc­ing emis­sions by 80 per­cent by 2050.

That’s the more long term plan laid out in Sen­ate Bill 32, leg­is­la­tion intro­duced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-​​Agoura Hills) at the end of last year.

What does the governor’s announce­ment mean for the state? Get­ting halfway to that 2050 bench­mark within the next 15 years.

Has the gov­er­nor set the bar too high, or is this sim­ply an expres­sion of his faith in California’s cli­mate change policy?

This is basi­cally say­ing we need a new indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion,” Dan Kam­men, Pro­fes­sor of Energy at UC Berke­ley told NBC Bay Area. “The last one took about 150 years. Now we need to do it between now and 2050.”

Kam­men says despite the ambi­tious tar­get, the state can reach the governor’s goal, but get­ting there by 2030 isn’t going to be easy.

Cal­i­for­nia has already begun pluck­ing at the ‘low hang­ing fruit’ to bring car­bon lev­els down, like incen­tiviz­ing cleaner cars, imple­ment­ing stingier fuel stan­dards and pro­mot­ing renew­able energies—the state sources 24 per­cent of its power from solar, wind, bio­mass and geot­her­mal power. In light of the governor’s new demand, Kam­men says Cal­i­for­nia must majorly increase its use of these tech­nolo­gies, and lever­age them in new ways.

Find­ing ways to do these things together is really kind of the magic of Cal­i­for­nia inno­va­tion on the tech­ni­cal and pol­icy side,” he said. “Because the more we can find oppor­tu­ni­ties to do both of these things together, like elec­tric vehi­cles charged up by solar, wind and other renew­ables, that means that you win twice over. That’s lit­er­ally a win-​​win strategy.”

Accord­ing to fig­ures from the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s car­bon emis­sions dropped nearly 7 per­cent between 2004 and 2012, the year that data is most recently avail­able. If the state keeps at the same rate, it will actu­ally beat the 2020 car­bon emis­sions bench­mark set forth by CARB.

So for now, Cal­i­for­nia is ahead of the game in mak­ing car­bon reductions.

But the real chal­lenge as meet­ing Gov­er­nor Brown’s bench­mark comes into action will be con­vinc­ing every­day cit­i­zens to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in cut­ting back on emis­sions, said Abby Young, Cli­mate Pol­icy Man­ager at the Bay Area Air Qual­ity Man­age­ment District.

Most of the energy nation­wide — around 70 per­cent — is con­sumed in build­ings, and the Bay Area is home to a num­ber of older office spaces and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties. Due to their age, these types of build­ings are rarely energy efficient.

While require­ments have been estab­lished for new con­struc­tion to meet energy effi­ciency stan­dards, real progress could mean state and local gov­ern­ments incen­tiviz­ing home­own­ers to jump on board with retro­fitting their homes, Young said. That means installing solar pan­els and tak­ing other steps to increase energy effi­ciency, she added.

What’s great about the gov­er­nor mak­ing this kind of bold state­ment is it moti­vates and inspires…individuals to real­ize how impor­tant the indi­vid­ual behav­iors and actions they take every day are to help­ing the state meet this goal,” Young said.

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