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Can California Hit Its Emission Reduction Goals? Only If Californians Drive A Lot Less, Study Says.

Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.

Photo by Associated Press

Above: Traffic on a San Diego freeway is shown in this file photo, Nov. 22, 2011.

Can California Hit Its Emission Reduction Goals? Only If Californians Drive A Lot Less, Study Says.


Chanell Fletcher, director, ClimatePlan


Californians need to drive a lot less — that's the consensus from a new California Air Resources Board study.

Even though the state said it met its goal early of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, the report suggests that communities won't meet future goals. The reason? Even though regions are supposed to come up with plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the report said “the real-world results are falling significantly short” of targets — that that some places “are moving in the wrong direction.”

Chanell Fletcher is the director of ClimatePlan, a group that contributed to the study. She said the CARB study is “just a huge wake up call.”

“We need everyone — cities, counties, regions, the state — to work together and get really serious about how our communities are built,” Fletcher said.

The report’s authors note that people need to stop driving alone and living far away from where they work. There also needs to be strong investment in alternative modes of transportation, according to the authors, which will cost millions, if not billions, of dollars statewide.

Fletcher broke it down: If every Californian drove 1.6 miles less each day, the state would hit its 2020 and 2035 targets.

This will take cooperation from all levels of government. But Nicole Dolney, chief of the transportation planning branch of CARB, said the report shows there's disconnect between state and local goals, especially when it comes transportation.

Dolney said this is a chance to reverse course in order to meet the state's goal of dropping emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal for the state reaching zero carbon emissions by 2045.

CARB, for example, doesn’t want suburban residents to have to drive to work.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all,” Dolney said. “But we want reliable modes of transportation that get people to where they want to go in a way that’s just as convenient as driving. Right now, that’s not always the case.”

Dolney and her colleague Carey Knecht, who works in the air quality and science division of CARB, say Sacramento is already following some best practices. For example, the implementation of Jump bikes and designated bicycling lanes.

“They’ve been putting their money where their mouth is by awarding mini-grants … to encourage biking, walking, van-pooling and other ways that test-out new strategies for changing travel behavior,” Knecht said.


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