California: Zero Emissions Personal Vehicle Sales By 2035

california zero emissions

Earlier this week, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, announced an exciting executive order for any environmentalist.

Executive order N-79-20  sets the goal of reaching 100% zero-emissions personal vehicle sales by 2035.

Every year the state intends to reduce the volume of fossil-fuel powered cars.

Personal cars and trucks, off-road vehicles such as ATVs, and many other transportation vehicles are included in the order’s 2035 goal.

New medium and heavy-load working, construction, and commercial vehicle sales will all be zero-emissions by 2045 in the same order.

Cars, trucks, and other vehicles are the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses in the state of California.

The transportation sector currently accounts for around 40% of total emissions in California. In the executive order, Newsom identifies the climate change crisis as:

"...impacting California in unprecedented ways, and affecting the health and safety of too many Californians...California's long-term economic resilience requires bold action..."

california governor

In executive order N-79-20, Governor Newsom also set his sights on oil and natural gas extraction.

This includes several measures and policy directives aimed at improving conditions for workers and the general public, and decreasing the environmental impact of California’s extraction activities.

The most notable section regarding extraction states that it will “end the issuance of new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024”.

Hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as “fracking”, has become very popular in the extraction of natural gas and has contributed greatly to the great production increases of natural gas in the United States over the past 20 years.

It has also proven to be very detrimental to our environment and society at large. Many examples of fracking causing serious health, infrastructure, and property damage have been recorded and many more will occur and be uncovered.

Though fracking allows for cheap and plentiful extraction of natural gas, there are other costs associated with the practice that the entirety of our society must pay – the cost of birth defects associated with poisoned water, the cost of sink-holes damaging property, and the cost of the degradation of both public and private lands.

This executive order is a major step for the state toward the realization of the goals established in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which had the intention of reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 along with other goals intended to mitigate the human impact on climate change in California.

It also included more ambitious goals of reducing emissions further in the future – since this act was passed in 2006, the state has developed several “scoping plans” which have sought to reduce the state’s emissions incrementally, intended to ultimately result in a 40% reduction compared to 1990 by 2030. 

california traffic
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established 431,000,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions as the target for 2020 and the goal for 2030 would be to reduce emissions under 260 metric tons per the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. 

Rising global temperatures have caused immense turmoil across the West Coast, especially California, and these effects are expected to only become more and more profound without a concerted, intelligent response.

In a study completed in May 2020, the estimation was calculated that around 14,000 premature deaths could be avoided in California by 2050 if the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions were met.

The negative impact of air pollution on health is disproportionately affecting minorities and the poor. Consequently, emissions reductions and the corresponding improvement in air quality will benefit disadvantaged communities to a greater extent than other California communities. 

Further, the same study came to the conclusion that the improved health of Californians resulting from reduced emissions will result in an annual monetary benefit exceeding $200 billion, almost double the annual cost of greenhouse gas abatement, which is estimated to be around $106 billion per the criteria used in the study. 

This just goes to show that doing the right thing by the planet and the environment pays dividends for society as a whole. Forward thinking improves quality of life across our entire society. 

We need more forward-thinking, bold leaders rising to the top of our political ecosystem, our corporations, and our communities.

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