California regulators unveil plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2045

(The Center Square) – California air regulators have unveiled a new plan to put the state on a path to achieving "carbon neutrality" by 2045 or sooner, outlining strategies to slash fossil fuel use in the coming years.

The draft 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan, released by the California Air Resources Board on Tuesday, seeks to decrease the state's reliance on fossil fuels by transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles to zero-emission transportation and phasing out the use of fossil gas to heat homes and buildings. It includes four potential scenarios to achieve "carbon neutrality" – two that would achieve this goal by 2035 and two that would achieve the goal by 2045.

Within the plan, regulators recommend cutting petroleum use by 91% by 2045. They also say phasing out fossil gas in commercial and residential buildings is part of achieving carbon neutrality, recommending that new residential buildings have only electric appliances by 2026 and new commercial buildings have these appliances by 2029.

Regulators called the plan "the most comprehensive and far-reaching Scoping Plan developed to date." This 2022 draft plan represents the third update to the state's first Scoping Plan released in 2008 and focuses on achieving carbon neutrality while maintaining progress on a state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The plan is not final and is amid a 45-day public comment period. Clean-air regulators are set to review the plan in June, but consideration of a final draft will not happen until fall.

"When final, [the plan] will serve as the actionable plan for a more sustainable California for our children and a model for other industrialized economies around the world as they consider how to make their transition to a clean energy economy that provides health benefits and economic opportunity," CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey said in a statement.

The plan faced some pushback from the Western States Petroleum Association, who said CARB should "step back" and "develop a new plan" that considers comments from concerned business owners and residents. WSPA said that the plan "would impose more bans, mandates and expensive regulations that are designed to affect, as the report says, 'every aspect of how we work, play and travel."

"Californians deserve better, as there is nothing more important than getting climate policy right," WSPA President and CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in a statement. "The consequences of failing are far too costly to our families, economy, and the environment."

Other groups voiced concerns Tuesday about the impact the plan could have on small businesses, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is important to remember that many, if not most, Main Street employers are still grappling with the devastating impacts of COVID-related shutdowns, soaring inflation, supply chain disruption and retail theft across our communities," John Kabateck, California state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement.

"We hope and trust that CARB members and the Newsom administration leaders will seek to include small businesses, our number one job creators, throughout the development and ultimate implementation of this scoping plan."

The draft 2022 Scoping Plan is expected to be finalized by year-end.

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