Climate Change and California’s Action Plan

by Drew Gross, Sustainable SSU Intern, Fall '22 and Spring '23
January 20, 2023

Climate change is a defining issue and impacts our lives and health in a variety of ways, such as droughts, floods, fire and unhealthy air quality. Often people feel discouraged to act on making a change for our climate because they don’t feel as though it will be very beneficial, even though taking a few small steps can help support climate change and lead to a positive impact for our planet. California has taken another step to lead the way forward with its Climate Action Plan which includes a variety of initiatives and policies aimed at reducing emissions.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific elements included in California’s Climate Action Plan:

  • Increasing the use of electric vehicles to reduce emissions from transportation
  • Increasing the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power
  • Improving energy efficiency in buildings and industries
  • Developing carbon capture and storage technologies
  • Investing in communities' sustainable projects and programs (recycling and composting, renewable energy projects, etc.)

Key benefits of this plan include: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which can help to slow the rate of climate change, increase in the use of renewable energy, which can help to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and improved energy efficiency can lead to cost savings for individuals, businesses, and the state as a whole. Investment in sustainability in communities can promote economic development, create jobs, and improve quality of life for residents. Additional benefits include, enhancing food security by avoiding the loss of millions of staple crops each year, preserving crucial ecosystems and ecosystem services, lowering the risk of harmful and irreversible climate tipping points, and significantly advancing the goals of California's Climate Action Plan. California has set a number of targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, as part of its Climate Action Plan. The state has set a goal to reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. To meet these targets, California has implemented a variety of policies and initiatives, including:

  • Cap-and-trade program: California has established a cap-and-trade program that limits the total amount of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted by the state's largest polluters. Companies must purchase allowances for each ton of emissions they produce, creating an economic incentive for them to reduce their emissions.
  • Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): California has set a goal for utilities to generate 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The RPS requires utilities to increase their use of renewable energy over time and to purchase a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
  • Electric vehicle (EV) mandate: California has set a goal for 5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to be on the road by 2030, which includes EV's, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and plug-in hybrids. To achieve this, the state has implemented a number of policies to promote the deployment of EV infrastructure and to increase the number of EV's on the road.
  • Building energy efficiency standards: California has some of the most stringent energy efficiency standards in the country. The state has adopted a number of building energy codes and standards, which have been designed to reduce energy consumption in buildings.
  • Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): California has established a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels over time. The LCFS requires fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels by 10% by 2030.
  • Additionally, the state is investing in research, development, and deployment of clean energy technologies such as Carbon capture and storage, hydrogen fuel cells, and energy storage systems.

Furthermore, in order to help, college students can explore methods of public transportation, participating in events and initiatives through sustainability organizations on campus, making different food choices, learning more about plans for a greener campus, being a more conscious consumer and choosing products that aren't made with harsh chemicals and clothing that is more environmentally friendly (steering away from the fast fashion industry, clothing made from recycled and/or organic materials, thrifting and purchasing locally made items). Personal behaviors reduce human effect and can be utilized as a teaching resource to raise understanding of climate change. It is critical that campus communities take full responsibility for their role in averting the most extreme outcomes because predictions indicate that climate change and its negative impacts will persist. Not only can quick action help us today, it can also help ensure that future generations will have a world that is habitable and thriving. I believe that students need to be involved in the aspects of climate change and why it is so important to take action and learn how we can make a change. Understanding and choosing to change our habits can only help our planet more. In order to make a positive change, we must understand that our habits and choices affect climate change.