Governor tightens greenhouse gas limits

Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday set a new target for greenhouse gas reduction in California that officials described as the most aggressive in North America.

In an executive order, Brown called for the state to reduce greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Prior to Wednesday’s¬†action, legislation passed in 2006 had called for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – a goal the state was on track to meet or exceed.

The state’s ultimate goal is to reduce emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, and Brown today said his new interim target would help make it possible to reach that goal.

Brown said in a statement:

“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come.”

The European Union set the same target for 2030 last year, according to the governor’s office.

Brown’s executive order today also calls for measures to improve California’s ability to adapt to climate change, by factoring it into state planning.

The Bay Area Council, a public policy group sponsored by Bay Area businesses, said the state’s ability to achieve the new targets would depend on the development of new energy and communications technologies as well as new policies and regulatory changes.

Jim Wunderman, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement:

“Gov. Brown has put forward very aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, but the goals will be meaningless without similarly aggressive action on key policies needed to achieve them.”

Wunderman called for more emphasis on infill and transit-oriented development, to reduce the state’s dependence on automobiles, and reforms to the state Environmental Quality Act, which he said can be used to delay and block projects such as bicycle lanes and solar farms.

Officials with PG&E in a statement today called the new target “ambitious” and “bold” but, “with the right structures in place, attainable”:

“It demonstrates why California has been a leader in technology, the environment and innovation for decades, and the governor’s vision will fuel future economic growth and innovation.”

Today’s announcement follows Brown’s pledge in his inaugural address in January to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources from one-third to 50 percent by 2030; reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.