California Has Already Achieved Its 2020 Emissions Reduction Target

The Golden State is an overachiever: After setting an emissions target of reaching 1990 levels by 2020, the state managed to accomplish its goal four years early, according to data just released by the state.

And in the midst of†reducing emissions, the state also grew its economy, highlighting the fact that doing the right thing for the environment doesn’t have to come with a cost to the bottom line.

California officials aren’t satisfied with this achievement, though. Theyv’e already set their eyes on another target: cutting emissions by another 40 percent within the next 12 years.

This success story for California’s aggressive climate policy should be welcome news for the rest of the nation, and it definitely justifies†the state’s fight to set emissions standards that exceed the federal benchmarks.

While California†may be†vast, the state is managing to control the emissions produced by millions of residents, businesses and the infrastructure that supports them every year in the interest of protecting the planet for future generations. At the same time, it’s also improving quality of life for residents: Lowered emissions mean less pollution in†regions like Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Electricity generation proved to be one of†California’s biggest achievements.†The state’s electricity providers are turning away from sources like coal and towards renewables like solar, wind and hydroelectric. That’s radically reducing emissions at a time when California’s energy demand is ferocious between the pressures of Silicon Valley data centers and a growing population.

Individual consumers installing rooftop solar are also playing a role in this, and the state — along with utilities — is promoting solar adoption with rebate and assistance programs.

Meanwhile, cars are getting cleaner, and the state is heavily invested in promoting†electric car ownership. This is a critical strategy, as transportation represents a large chunk of emissions.†Plus, industrial sources are taking more responsibility to cut emissions. This includes rethinking the sources of emissions, as well as installing more effective filtration and control systems for†circumstances†in which some emissions are inevitable. Environmental advocates are also pushing for denser green housing in cities, because carbon footprints† increase radically for people living in suburban and rural areas.

California’s commitment to continuing to improve is important, as is their multi-modal strategy. The state has developed multiple tools for addressing concerns about emissions — and backed them with spending on a variety of programs and services, while also applying pressure to industrial polluters like utilities and refineries. Reaching the next climate target may be a challenge, even with the development of cleaner technologies and new, innovative approaches to cutting emissions.

But officials argue it’s still achievable, and California could be a blueprint for other states to follow. There’s precedent for this: A number of other states have adopted California’s emissions regulations for vehicles, building on the state’s groundwork. This ambitious emissions reduction program has turned the state into a proving ground for initiatives designed to make individuals and companies alike more environmentally friendly. After all, California’s experts have a much better sense of what works, what’s worth investing in and what turned out to be a dud despite everyone’s best intentions.

A note of caution, however: These numbers focused on human-generated emissions and pollution — and they didn’t count wildfires, a growing problem in California. A single large fire can emit a shocking amount of pollution, offsetting the state’s hard work.

But that’s not cause to give up on emissions regulations — just another reason for the state to have a serious conversation about natural resource management and fire controls.

Photo credit: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas/Flickr


Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Carole R
Carole R8 months ago

Very good.

Margie F
Margie FOURIE8 months ago

Well done California

Latoya B
Latoya Brookins8 months ago

If not for the wildfires and earthquakes, I'd want to move back to California.

Winn A
Winn Adams8 months ago


Winn A
Winn Adams8 months ago


Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D8 months ago

California overachieves despite Donald the Disaster. There! Is! Hope!

Ann B
Ann B8 months ago

but think of how many people live in CA...opposed to RI

Donna T
Donna T8 months ago

thank you

Danuta W
Danuta W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing