California would aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under a plan announced Wednesday that steps up the state's previously established target, which has cut emissions partly by forcing companies to pay for their carbon pollution.
Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order is loftier than a federal goal that also aims to curb global warming, but it gives the state more time to achieve it. Brown's plan lacks specifics, but he previously has cited increasing renewable electricity sources, reducing petroleum use in vehicles, doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner as ways to reduce emissions.
Brown set a target of reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years and called it the most aggressive benchmark enacted by a government in North America.
“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,” Brown said in a statement.
President Barack Obama announced a plan earlier this year to cut carbon dioxide emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, with 2005 levels as the starting point.
California already has moved on its environmental goals, partly through a program that puts a monetary value on carbon emissions. In 2006, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the state's landmark global warming law, and Brown has aggressively enforced it. It called for reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020 and 80 percent below that by 2050.
The state's cap-and-trade program, launched nearly three years ago, offers one of the few real-world laboratories on how to reduce carbon emissions. It expanded this year to fine companies that produce gasoline and other fuels, prompting predictions that consumers will see a spike in prices to cover the costs.
Brown said Wednesday that climate change would factor into government planning, and he ordered state agencies and departments to implement measures to reduce emissions. He also called for the state to identify how climate change will affect infrastructure and industry and what actions California can take to reduce the risks of climate change.
The order aligns California's greenhouse-gas reduction targets with those of leading international governments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. The 28-nation European Union has set the same target for 2030.
The latest proposal comes just months after Brown, at his inauguration, challenged the nation's most populous state to increase renewable energy use to 50 percent in the next 15 years.
Brown's action comes amid aggressive efforts aimed at fighting the state's historic drought, which has been California's primary environmental concern in recent months.
The governor's order was praised by climate researchers and politicians, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“California's 2030 goal to reduce carbon emissions is not only bold, it's necessary — for the economy and our future,” Bloomberg said in a statement released by Brown.
Despite being a political hero to the environmental movement in his first stint as governor in the 1970s, Brown has gotten harsh criticism from conservationists for his refusal to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil.
David Braun, a member of a group called Californians Against Fracking, said the governor's goal was commendable but insufficient.
“To really address climate change in a meaningful way, Gov. Brown must ban fracking and other oil drilling methods that endanger our communities' health, our water and the environment,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.