California’s Air Resources Board laid out on Wednesday policies and actions proposed by the state to drastically slash fossil fuel dependence and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 or sooner.
The move came in response to calls by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for a more aggressive climate approach. The Governor wants to accelerate the goal of curtailing planet-warming emissions by 48% this decade compared with 1990 levels. State law requires that California’s emissions be reduced at least 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2045.
To curtail carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires, the plan calls for one million acre of forest, scrubland, grassland and other habitat be treated with prescribed burning and other techniques by 2025. That figure rises to 2.3 million acres by 2045. That’s an increase from 100,000 acres currently treated this way.
The greater part of the plan, though, hinges on the widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles, either electric or hydrogen-fueled. This comes as research shows the transportation sector, including gas-fueled vehicles, accounted for 50% of California’s greenhouse emissions in 2019.
In a bid to phase out gas guzzlers, California passed a rule this year to ensure all new passenger vehicles sold in the state will be zero-emission or long-range hybrid by 2035. The Air Resources Board wants to transition heavy-duty trucks by 2040.
One snag could be that the plan also factors in Californians driving less—a 25% reduction by 2025 and 30% by 2045. However, Californians have never reached any statewide targets to cut the number of miles driven.
The plan also includes adoption of carbon capture technology, which involves siphoning smoke emissions and piping them underground. While it reduces greenhouse emissions, critics say it risks suffering leaks in an earthquake-prone state like California.
Overall, however, researchers at the Air Resources Board claim the plan could achieve 71% reduction in smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and roughly $200 billion in healthcare savings.
The plan will go before the Air Resources Board for formal consideration next month.
The state of California is the world’s fourth largest economy.