By Sophie Austin
The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, calif.>> California air regulators voted unanimously Thursday to approve an ambitious plan to drastically cut reliance on fossil fuels by changing practices in the energy, transportation and agriculture sectors, but critics say it doesn’t go far enough to combat climate change.
The plan sets out to achieve so-called carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning the state will remove as many carbon emissions from the atmosphere as it emits. It aims to do so in part by reducing fossil fuel demand by 86% within that time frame.
California had previously set this carbon neutrality target, but Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation making it a mandate earlier this year. The Democrat has said drastic changes are needed to position California as a global climate leader.
“We are making history here in California,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday.
But the plan’s road to approval by the California Air Resources Board was not without criticism. Capturing large amounts of carbon and storing it underground is one of the most controversial elements of the proposal. Critics say it gives the state’s biggest emitters reason to not do enough on their part to mitigate climate change.
In a meeting that lasted several hours, activists, residents and experts used their last chance to weigh in on the plan ahead of the board’s vote. Many said the latest version, while not perfect, was an improvement from earlier drafts, committing the state to do more to curb planet-warming emissions.
Davina Hurt, a board member, said she was proud California is moving closer to its carbon neutrality goal.
“I’m glad that this plan is bold and aggressive,” Hurt said.
The plan does not commit the state to taking any particular actions but sets out a broad roadmap for how California can achieve its goals.
The implementation of the plan hinges on the state’s ability to transition away from fossil fuels and rely more on renewable resources for energy.
It calls for the state to cut liquid petroleum fuel demand by 94% by 2045, and quadruple solar and wind capacity along that same time frame.
Another goal would mean new residential and commercial buildings will be powered by electric appliances before the next decade.
The calls for dramatically lowering reliance on oil and gas come as public officials continue to grapple with how to avoid blackouts when record-breaking heat waves push Californians to crank up their air conditioning.
And the Western States Petroleum Association took issue with the plan’s timeline.
“CARB’s latest draft of the Scoping Plan has acknowledged what dozens of studies have confirmed — that a complete phase-out of oil and gas is unrealistic,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the group’s president, in a statement. “A plan that isn’t realistic isn’t really a plan at all.”
At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph touted the latest version of the plan as the most ambitious to date. It underwent changes after public comments earlier this year.