Next 10’s California Green Innovation Index tracks the state’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, spurring technological and business innovation, and growing businesses and jobs that enable the transition to a more resource-efficient economy. The 2021 Index is the 13th edition published by Next 10.
For the first time since Next 10 began producing the Index in 2008, the 13th annual California Green Innovation Index is now primarily digital, allowing readers to learn and interact with the findings of the report in a new medium in 2021. The report finds total greenhouse gas emissions dropped 1.6 percent between 2018 and 2019—the second largest percentage decrease since 2010—but far short of what is needed to comply with California’s mandate to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. California must now sustain a 4.3 percent annual decrease through 2030—a reduction that is more than 2.5 times greater than was achieved in 2019. While California’s vibrant clean energy economy is supporting strong job numbers, it is failing to deliver the necessary annual emissions reductions, as slowing renewable energy growth, underwhelming transportation sector gains, and a worrisome cross-sector over-dependence on natural gas pose major challenges for the state. The consumption of natural gas in homes and buildings in California is on the rise—up 15.3 percent in the commercial sector since 2014, 17.8 percent in residential homes since 2014 and up 19.8 percent in the industrial sector since 2009.
While California’s statewide emissions reductions in 2019 failed to keep pace with the dramatic reductions needed, the state did report strong jobs numbers within the clean energy sector—an encouraging sign for the state’s economic future. The Index found that California’s economy has the highest concentration of clean jobs and green jobs in power generation in the nation, largely due to its investment in solar. California boasted more than 124,000 solar power jobs in 2019—more than one-third of the total number of American jobs in that sector. California’s jobs in solar alone were more than five times above what would be expected based on its total number of employees. The state also boasted significant specialization within energy storage (ranking 5th in the nation with a total of 18,571 storage jobs) and a smaller, but still significant specialization in hydroelectric power production (total of 11,091 jobs; ranking 8th in specialization nationwide). The Index also found that the cities of Stockton, Riverside, Vallejo and Yuba City were actually some of the best positioned in the state for rapid job growth in green industries, due to the skillset of their workforce, including many in the trades.
The report also found that transportation sector emissions, California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, ticked downward just slightly in 2019, dropping 2.1 percent from 2018 to 2019, and remaining at just over 40 percent of the state’s total emissions (40.7% in 2019). This decrease was driven largely by a substantial 7.5 percent drop in heavy-duty vehicle emissions—and aided by a small (1.5%) drop in light-duty truck and SUV emissions.
The total number of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) registered in California is growing (+11.6% in 2020 compared to 2019), though a greater pace of adoption is needed to meet the state’s target of 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. Major policy developments over the last two years, such as Governor Newsom’s executive order setting a target of 100 percent of car sales being ZEVs by 2035 and the approval of the Advanced Clean Trucks rule ramping up sales requirements for electric trucks, could lay the groundwork for a rapid transition to ZEVs in the coming years. There are also promising signs that ZEV adoption is expanding at a faster pace outside the traditional urban market into more rural areas. In 2020, more than 26.3 percent of Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (one of California’s key clean transportation incentive programs) rebates came from disadvantaged communities, up for 17.8 percent in 2015.
Wildfires continue to present a persistent challenge, with emissions from wildfires reaching the highest level since the state began tracking them—more than 106 MMTCO2e in 2020, more than any other sector aside from transportation in 2019. While some of these carbon emissions will be reabsorbed as California’s fire-ravaged forests recover, the scale of the emissions is worrying nonetheless—especially given that wildfires are likely to continue to grow in size and severity as temperatures rise with climate change.
Summary of Key Findings (PDF)
3.9%Average annual growth
$79,287 Per capita GDP
1.0%Average annual growth rate
-0.08% Average annual growth
-1.6% One year growth
10.58 Metric tons of CO2 equivalent
Population Data Source: California Department of Finance.,
Gross Domestic Product Data Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Greenhouse Gas Data Source: California Air Resources Board, “2021 California Greenhouse Gas Inventory — by Sector and Activity.” California Department of Finance.
Carbon Economy: California Air Resources Board, “2021 California Greenhouse Gas Inventory — by Sector and Activity.” Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Next 10 and Beacon Economics hosted a webinar to discuss the key findings of the 2021 California Green Innovation Index on Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 11am PTView Recording
13th annual California Green Innovation Index finds overdependence on natural gas and slowing pace of renewables growth pose major challenges for the state, as path to meeting climate targets narrowsRead More
Next 10 is an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future.
Next 10 was founded in 2003 by businessman and philanthropist F. Noel Perry. Next 10 is focused on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians.