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California regulators approve plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045

By Stephanie Elam, CNN

California’s air regulators approved an aggressive plan Thursday for the state to reach carbon neutrality by 2045 — in line with legislation signed by Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this year.

The plan, approved by the California Air Resources Board, looks to move one of the largest economies in the world to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.

Known as the Scoping Plan, the actions and policies aim to slash fossil fuel usage to less than a tenth of current consumption by decreasing demand for liquid petroleum by 94% by 2045, mainly driven by a move away from gas-powered vehicles.

The board also says the plan will cut air pollution by 71% and gas emissions by 85% to below 1990 levels. Both goals are consistent with targets laid out in Governor Gavin Newsom’s $54.1 billion climate commitment intended to protect residents from wildfires, extreme heat and drought while moving away from big oil.

The plan will create four million jobs and save Californians some $200 billion in health costs for pollution-related illnesses by 2045, the board said, providing a path for California to meet its climate targets.

“California is leading the world’s most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution — we’re cutting pollution, turning the page on fossil fuels and creating millions of new jobs,” said Newsom in a press release after the plan was approved.

After a public comment session, board members acknowledged that this plan is a roadmap to cutting greenhouse gases, and that not all of what is laid out may come to fruition.

One focus of the plan is a move to zero-emission transportation, including both personal vehicles and mass transit. While fossil fuels used in homes are also targeted, the state said gas-powered vehicles and other transportation are currently the largest source of carbon emissions.

In August, the board approved a rule requiring all passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035.

Beginning in 2026, all new residential buildings will be required to install electric appliances and in 2029, the requirements will begin extending to commercial buildings, according to the plan. For existing residential buildings, all appliance sales are required to be electric by 2035. Ten years later, all commercial buildings in the state will have to follow suit, the plan said.

While the board called the plan “achievable” some critics say the plan relies too much on what some of the board members acknowledged is an unproven method of carbon capture and sequestration instead of relying on natural and working lands to also house some of that carbon.

“This plan is failing the people of California and our planet — first by endorsing carbon capture, a faulty climate scheme promoted by the fossil fuel industry,” said Chirag Bhakta, the California state director for Food & Water Watch, in a statement to CNN.

“Carbon capture is a completely unproven and unworkable technology that only serves to provide cover for oil and gas drillers to continue business as usual,” Bhakta said.

The scoping plan also targets wildfires which are not only responsible for the destruction of forests, buildings and property, but also emit copious amounts of carbon dioxide.

In recent years, human-driven climate change has spurred massive blazes. The board pointing out that of the 20 largest wildfires in California, nine happened in 2020 and 2021.

The plan sets a goal of treating one million acres a year by 2025 through actions like prescribed burns and increased forest management. Currently, about 100,000 acres are treated a year.

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