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California unveils a plan to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2045


California is out today with a new, ambitious climate change plan aimed at reducing the state's dependence on fossil fuels. From member station KQED, Kevin Stark reports.

KEVIN STARK, BYLINE: You can think of this plan as a roadmap for how California could essentially zero out greenhouse gas emissions in a little more than two decades. The plan calls for slashing emissions by 48% by 2030 based on 1990 levels. Energy analysts say that's a more aggressive target than what President Biden's proposed for the country. Lauren Sanchez is climate adviser to Governor Gavin Newsom.

LAUREN SANCHEZ: This plan will indeed be very difficult to achieve because of the scale of the task and the speed with which it needs to be delivered. But the governor will not take failure as an option, and neither should any of us.

STARK: Newsom pushed the state's Air Resources Board to move faster after it released a draft plan earlier this year. Included in the latest version is the state's mandate to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.

SANCHEZ: He also worked with the legislative leaders to pass a broad climate package that included the legislation to achieve carbon neutrality.

STARK: If realized, California's climate plan could transform daily life in the nation's most populous state. Tens of millions of electric cars would have to be added to the roads. And even with that, many more Californians would need to use public transit than do now. Seven million existing homes and commercial buildings that use fuel for heating and cooking would have to switch to electric in a little more than a decade.

The backbone of the plan is a cleaner, more robust power grid. It includes a commitment to stop building gas power plants, quadruple wind and solar generation, all while doubling the state's capacity to produce electricity. That won't be easy. The state narrowly avoided rolling blackouts this year after demand nearly surpassed supply during a heat wave that baked the state for 10 days. Liane Randolph is the state's top air regulator.

LIANE RANDOLPH: We need to take action to reduce the worst impacts of a changing climate. And there is only one way to do that - break forever our dependence on fossil fuels, the harsh grip of petroleum and move as fast as we can to a clean-energy economy.

STARK: Randolph says this plan could drive the state's economy forward, creating an estimated 4 million jobs and address one of the state's persistent environmental problems - punishing smog.

RANDOLPH: And by rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels, the plan delivers public health benefits to everyone in California and most importantly, to those communities suffering from persistent air pollution.

STARK: The state estimates it would cut air pollution by 71% and save Californians $200 billion in health care costs due to pollution.

For NPR News, I'm Kevin Stark in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Stark

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