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Latest GHG Inventory shows California remains below 2020 emissions target; much steeper rate of GHG reductions required

California’s latest greenhouse gas data shows that while the state continues to stay below its 2020 target for emissions, there is much more work to do to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The California Air Resources Board released GHG emissions data for 2018 showing that emissions remain below 1990 levels but are effectively flat compared to 2017, while the economy grew by 4.3%. The data shows a slight increase in overall emissions from the previous year, and a slight decline in emissions from transportation, which is the state’s main source of both GHGs and air pollutants.


Source: California Air Resources Board (ARB)

  • California statewide GHG emissions dropped below the 2020 GHG Limit in 2016 and have remained below the 2020 GHG Limit since then.

  • Total statewide 2018 GHG emissions were 425.3 million metric tons, compared to 424.5 million metric tons in 2017. That remains six million metric tons below the 2020 target.

  • Transportation emissions declined 1.5 million metric tons between 2017 and 2018, the first such decline since 2013.

  • Per capita GHG emissions in California have dropped from a 2001 peak of 14.0 tons per person to 10.7 tons per person in 2018, a 24% decrease.

  • Emissions from high-GWP gases increased 2.3% in 2018 (2000-2018 average year-over-year increase is 6.8%), continuing the increasing trend as they replace Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) being phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.


2018 GHG Emissions by Scoping Plan Sector and Sub-Sector Category. This figure breaks out 2018 emissions by sector into an additional level of sub-sector categories. The inner ring shows the broad Scoping Plan sectors. The outer ring breaks out the broad sectors into sub-sectors or emission categories under each sector. Source: CARB GHG Inventory.

California’s climate change mitigation policy is currently based on four basic programs: the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), the cap-and-trade program, the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate and the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS). These programs cover transportation fuels, industrial emissions, vehicle emissions and emissions from electricity generation. All these climate programs have considerably more stringent emissions reduction targets starting in 2021.

Industry is already increasing the use of alternatives to petroleum diesel, including renewable diesel and biodiesel. This is in response to market signals from the Low Carbon Fuel Standard including recent announcements by California refiners to convert their facilities to produce 100% cleaner renewable fuels, keeping jobs and economic activity in the state.

CARB has approved additional measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from super pollutants that must also be reduced significantly. Those pollutants include fugitive methane, hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants and other chemicals with global warming impact tens to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide. Because of the enormous potential impact of these products, reducing their emissions has a disproportionate benefit to the environment.

CARB has also approved a method for quantifying carbon capture and sequestration projects as part of the LCFS. This technology allows emitters to capture the carbon generated by their operations and sequester it underground in secure rock formations. CARB staff is also evaluating direct air capture technology.


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