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.
China has enacted a series of policies since 2015 to substitute electricity for in-home combustion for rural residential heating. The Electric Heating Policy (EHP) has contributed to significant improvements in air quality, benefiting hundreds of millions of people. This shift, however, has resulted in a sharp increase in electric loads and associated carbon emissions. Here, we show that China’s EHP will greatly increase carbon emissions. We develop a theoretical model to quantify the carbon emissions from power generation and rural residential heating sectors. We found that in 2015, an additional 101.69–162.89 megatons of CO2 could potentially be emitted if EHP was implemented in 45–55% of rural residents in Northern China. In 2020, the incremental carbon emission is expected to reach 130.03–197.87 megatons. Fortunately, the growth of carbon emission will slow down due to China’s urbanization progress. In 2030, the carbon emission increase induced by EHP will drop to 119.19–177.47 megatons. Finally, we conclude two kinds of practical pathways toward low-carbon electric heating, and provide techno-economic analyses.
The world has been transformed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on global CO2 emissions is unprecedented. According to a study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the drop in emissions during the first half of 2020 is larger than what was seen during the financial crisis of 2008, the oil crisis in 1979, or even during World War II.
The researchers determined that from January to June, CO2 emissions were 8.8 percent lower compared to the same time period in 2019, with an overall decrease of 1,551 million tons.
The study is providing a much more clear understanding of how COVID-19 has affected global energy consumption compared to previous reports. The experts also highlight fundamental steps that could be taken to stabilize the climate after the pandemic.
Study lead author Zhu Liu is a researcher in the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“What makes our study unique is the analysis of meticulously collected near-real-time data. By looking at the daily figures compiled by the Carbon Monitor research initiative we were able to get a much faster and more accurate overview, including timelines that show how emissions decreases have corresponded to lockdown measures in each country,” explained Liu.
“In April, at the height of the first wave of Corona infections, when most major countries shut down their public life and parts of their economy, emissions even declined by 16.9 %. Overall, the various outbreaks resulted in emission drops that we normally see only on a short-term basis on holidays such as Christmas or the Chinese Spring Festival.”
The analysis reveals which sectors of the global economy have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Study co-author Daniel Kammen is a professor in the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
“The greatest reduction of emissions was observed in the ground transportation sector,” said Professor Kammen. “Largely because of working from home restrictions, transport CO2 emissions decreased by 40 % worldwide. In contrast, the power and industry sectors contributed less to the decline, with -22 % and -17 %, respectively, as did the aviation and shipping sectors.” “Surprisingly, even the residential sector saw a small emissions drop of 3 %: largely because of an abnormally warm winter in the northern hemisphere, heating energy consumption decreased with most people staying at home all day during lockdown periods.”
The comprehensive research was focused on a wide range of data, including hourly datasets of electricity power production in 31 countries, daily vehicle traffic in more than 400 cities, daily passenger flights, and monthly production rates for industry in 62 countries.
The experts also found that, with the exception of the transportation industry, most economies resumed their usual levels of CO2 emissions by July after lockdown measures were lifted.
Even if emissions remained low, however, those improvements would do little to offset the harmful levels of CO2 that have accumulated in the atmosphere in the long term. With this in mind, the researchers emphasize that the only valid strategy to stabilize the climate is a complete overhaul of the industry and commerce sector.
Study co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“While the CO2 drop is unprecedented, decreases of human activities cannot be the answer,” said Schellnhuber. “Instead we need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems. Individual behavior is certainly important, but what we really need to focus on is reducing the carbon intensity of our global economy.”
Mobility on-demand vehicle (MODV) services have grown explosively in recent years, threatening targets for local air pollution and global carbon emissions. Despite evidence that on-demand automotive fleets are ripe for electrification, adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in fleet applications has been hindered by lack of charging infrastructure and long charging times. Recent research on electrification programs in Chinese megacities suggests that top-down policy targets can spur investment in charging infrastructure, while intelligent charging coordination can greatly reduce requirements for battery range and infrastructure, as well as revenue losses due to time spent charging. Such capability may require labor policy reform to allow fleet operators to manage their drivers’ charging behavior, along with collection and integration of several key datasets including: 1) vehicle trajectories and energy consumption, 2) charging infrastructure installation costs, and 3) real-time charging station availability. In turn, digitization enabled by fleet electrification holds the potential to enable a host of smart urban mobility strategies, including integration of public transit with innovative transportation systems and emission-based pricing policies.