California has been a global leader in heading off global warming, enacting laws to slash the state’s greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. To do so, local governments must draft formal Climate Action Plans that document how to meet their own mandates.
San Diego has cut greenhouse gas emissions by residents, businesses and government by 24 percent over the past decade — far surpassing the official 2020 goal of 15 percent.
The stakes are rising in a legal battle over whether San Diego County will be able to approve thousands of new housing units in wildfire-prone areas far from urban job centers using carbon offsets.
The Sierra Club spearheaded the legal challenge last year with support from a host of environmental groups, such as the Center of Biological Diversity, as well as the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign and Cleveland National Forest Foundation.
While county governments across the state came out early this month in support of San Diego County’s offset plan, Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office simultaneously blasted the idea — saying it could undercut California’s internationally lauded strategy to reduce planet-warming emissions.
The wildfires that raged last year from Paradise to Malibu made for California’s deadliest, most destructive fire season on record.
But the eruption of blazes marked another distinction for California, as one of the worst for the climate. In 2018, fires released more than 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — the most in a decade and trailing only slightly behind 2008, when the state was also stricken by two of the largest wildfires in modern history.
California’s greenhouse gas emissions declined by about 1% in 2017, with a continued shift toward renewable electricity keeping the state ahead of schedule in meeting its 2020 climate target, according to a report released Monday by air quality regulators. The state Air Resources Board inventory found 2017 was the first year since the state began tracking planet-warming emissions that electricity generated from solar, wind, hydroelectric and other renewable sources surpassed what was generated by fossil fuels. Clean power provided 52% of the electricity California used in 2017, according to the report. The gains came so heavily from the electricity, environmental policy experts say, that the sector is making up for more lackluster areas of the economy, such as transportation and industry.