For fifteen years, Next 10 has closely tracked the most pressing environmental and economic challenges facing the state of California, with a goal to educate and empower Californians to seek a better future for our state. As the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been encouraging developments at both the state and federal levels on climate action that will spur economic growth while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollution. The recent global climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt saw new international commitments, demonstrating a concerted and global effort to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
Against this backdrop, the U.S. has taken the most ambitious step in our history toward tackling the climate crisis with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law in August. The legislation commits nearly $370 billion toward reducing our emissions by bolstering renewable energy resources and electrification of transportation and buildings. Specifically, the IRA will provide up to $28,500 in incentives for households to buy electric vehicles (EVs) or appliances, with an emphasis on those made in the U.S. Automakers have already announced investments of $13 billion in domestic manufacturing of EVs and $24 billion for manufacturing of their batteries. New EV models such as Ford F-150 BEV and Rivian will help spur adoption of electric light-duty trucks. This expansion of the EV market is important because consumer preferences have shifted toward these less fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicles in recent years.
Following Governor Newsom’s Executive Order in 2020 requiring 100 percent of new vehicle sales in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, these federal investments will be crucial to meeting this target and reducing transportation emissions in California—the largest source of emissions in both the state and nation. California has also committed $54 billion to climate and clean energy in the last two state budgets, including building new EV charging networks necessary for widespread adoption of EVs.
While all of these developments are encouraging, we need to do much more and quickly. The latest greenhouse gas inventory data show that California saw a nine percent reduction in emissions from 2019 to 2020, but this was largely due to COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions on travel. There are signs that emissions rebounded in 2021 as the economy re-opened, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to increase in 2022 and 2023. Renewable energy generation only grew in California by 0.5 percent to 33.6 percent of the total power mix in 2021, meaning we are not on track to meet our RPS goal of 50 percent by 2026 at the current trajectory. Substantial emissions from wildfires in 2020 and 2021 also threaten our ability to meet our climate targets. The wildfires from 2020 alone released 127.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—almost as many emissions as all of the passenger vehicles in California generate in a typical year.
More of our focus should be on near-term goals in 2025 and 2030. The latest scoping plan would set a more aggressive GHG emissions target of 48 percent below 1990 levels instead of the current 40 percent by 2030—but even meeting the existing target is unlikely unless major changes are made. By 2020, the state had only cut emissions by 14 percent below 1990 levels. Although California produces less than one percent of total global emissions, we need to be successful showing the world that we can reduce our emissions by being at the forefront of EV sales, new charging stations, new renewable energy, and climate action at the state and local levels. It is important we ensure all Californians are part of the solution—from job creation in burgeoning green industries to toxic site cleanup—as harmful air pollution and climate change disproportionately impact our historically disadvantaged communities.
We hope that our latest data will shed light not only on the challenges we face in attempting to grow our economy while addressing climate change, but also the opportunities to help us get there. By redoubling our statewide efforts to serve as a climate leader, we can help deliver benefits to all Californians while reclaiming our role as a global leader.
Noel Perry, Founder