California - Results led by decarbonation of electricity

Territorial assessment of climate action


Association Climate Chance (Climate Chance)

Since 2015, the Climate Chance Association has been involved in the mobilization in the fight against climate change. It is the only international association that proposes to bring together on an equal footing all non-state actors recognized by the UN. In order to strengthen their action and to give credibility to the climate stabilization scenarios, the Climate Chance Association launched in 2018 a Global Observatory of Non-State Climate Action, which aims to explain the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions, by crossing national public policies, with sectoral dynamics, private actors’ strategies, local public policies and actions undertaken by local actors. In order to analyse the coherence of local public policies, Climat Chance proposes an assessment of « territorial mobilisations » through selected examples of cities and regions. Here, California.

California, a leader in climate policy in the United States, made a commitment in 2006 to reduce its GHG emissions in 2020 to 1990 levels, about 15% below a business-as-usual scenario. California reached this first milestone as early as 2016, even though its GDP has been growing steadily since 2002. While the majority of emissions reductions in the last period came from the decarbonation of the electric power sector, the transportation sector is now the main source of reductions for the recently adopted 2030 and 2050 targets.


Since the end of the 1990s, the State of California has financially supported the development of renewable energy. In 2015, it set itself a target via Renewable Portfolio Standard of 33% of the electricity consumed in California being produced from renewable energy in 2020, 50% in 2030, and in September to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045 (IISD 2018). According to the California Energy Commission, this ratio would already be 32% in 2017. In pursuit of this goal, one of the central public policies is the USD 3.35 billion Go Solar California plan, initiated in 2007. With the help of various incentive schemes (tax credits, subsidies, guaranteed purchase prices for small installations, etc.), it has facilitated the installation of 7.2 GW. In 2015, emissions from the power sector were 29% lower than in 1990.


A major tool in the fight against emissions, the Californian carbon quota system launched in 2013 is currently the second largest in the world (I4CE 2018). It has also been linked to the Québec trading system since 2014. It applies to large energy production companies, fossil fuel distributors and industrial facilities, i.e. a total of 450 companies representing 85% of California’s emissions (C2ES). The allowances, distributed using a method combining free allocation and auctioning, are scheduled to decrease by an average of 3% per year between 2015 and 2020 and more rapidly over the period 2021 - 2030 in order to guarantee a minimum price. At present, it is difficult to assess the real impact of the California carbon market (Berkeley 2018).


California’s targets require a deep decarbonisation of the transport sector, whose emissions are currently on the rise. They account for 41% of the state’s emissions compared to 24% for the United States as a whole. The strategy pursued is based primarily on decarbonizing individual mobility. The State also adheres to the « Zero Vehicle Emission » initiative under the Under2 Coalition, which aims to achieve 100% « zero emission » vehicles by 2050. The central initiative, the « Advanced Clean Cars Program », introduced in 2012, sets maximum levels of GHG emissions and local pollutants and obliges automobile manufacturers to produce a quota of electric vehicles. The « Low Carbon Fuel Standard », adopted in 2009 and renewed in 2015, aims to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels by 10% between 2009 and 2020. California is also at the forefront of public support for the development of electric mobility. A development plan for the sector, voted in May 2018, provides for a public investment of USD 768 million in the financing of charging stations to enable the marketing of 5 million electric vehicles by 2030.


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