California Adopts Strategic Plan to Cut Carbon Emissions and Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Published Dec 15, 2022

 SACRAMENTO (Dec. 15, 2022)—A new plan to decarbonize California’s economy approved today by the state’s Air Resources Board offers a vital vision for curbing climate pollution. However, meeting its ambitious goals will require a responsible plan for phasing out petroleum and an unprecedented expansion of clean energy, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

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The Scoping Plan, updated every five years, guides California’s policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and energy sectors that are fueling climate change and its damaging impacts. Gov. Gavin Newsom called the strategy “the most ambitious set of climate goals of any jurisdiction in the world.”

“This plan accelerates California’s ongoing transition away from a transportation system fueled by petroleum to one largely powered by renewable electricity,” said Jeremy Martin, UCS senior scientist and director of fuels policy. “The petroleum phaseout will be challenging, and there must be a responsible and equitable plan to minimize economic impacts to refinery communities and oil industry workers that they should be involved in developing.”

Martin adds that more work must also be done to ensure that electric vehicles are accessible and affordable for more people while scaling up alternatives to driving.

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, the plan counts on large amounts clean electricity as the foundation for transforming how Californians power their lives.

“An unprecedented buildup of solar, wind, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies will be essential to reducing California’s emissions,” said UCS Western States Energy Manager Mark Specht. “The state must now embark on the task of ramping up renewable energy production and sustaining record-breaking levels of deployment over the next two decades.”

To ensure electricity grid reliability, Specht notes that the scoping plan depends on a large-scale buildout of power plants that combust hydrogen and retrofitting gas plants with carbon capture and sequestration. Instead, he says, policymakers should consider technologies such as long-duration energy storage.

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or directly out of industry sources and burying it underground are part of the plan’s strategy to achieve deep cuts in global-warming emissions necessary to meet the state’s long-term climate goals.

“The plan is very reliant on carbon dioxide removal, particularly energy-intensive direct air capture, to achieve net-zero emissions,” Specht said. “California should carefully assess the feasibility of scaling up these nascent technologies and consider whether additional emissions reductions across the economy are a more viable approach to meeting its climate goals.”