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Green Innovation Index offers mixed news about California's green economy and climate goals

California made progress toward hitting aggressive climate goals, but that progress may not be happening fast enough. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has a report on the latest Green Innovation Index.

Next 10's annual survey finds California emissions had significant declines, but may not be fast enough.

California made progress toward the state’s aggressive climate goals, but that progress is not happening fast enough. The latest Green Innovation Index tracks how California’s green economy is achieving its goals, such as the state’s bid to have a net-zero carbon economy by 2045. The report is compiled by the nonpartisan group Next 10 and Beacon Economics.

The study finds California’s clean energy economy is booming, but it is not making reductions fast enough to hit emission reduction goals. The report found total greenhouse gas reductions fell by 1.6% between 2018 and 2019, but in order to hit the state’s goal of cutting emissions 40% below 1990 levels, the state must achieve annual cuts by 4.3%.

RELATED: Solar industry cringes at new rules proposed by California regulators

Next 10’s leader remains optimistic. “We are one of the most innovative states, not only in America but in the world. We have the tools to be successful to reduce these emissions,” said Noel Perry, founder of Next 10.

An electric vehicle is being charged, March 28, 2016.
Matthew Bowler
An electric vehicle is being charged, March 28, 2016.

Perry said leadership is needed to help the state reach emission reductions like it never achieved before. Electrification of the transportation sector is one key. The report found just 2.2% of the state’s vehicles are battery electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fueled.

Changing consumer habits is one challenge, and improving infrastructure is another.

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“More charging stations are coming out with President Biden’s infrastructure plan,” Perry said. “The state is committing a lot more money for infrastructure for charging stations.”

The transportation sector has a steep reduction in heavy-duty truck emissions, which fell by more than 7% from 2018 to 2019. It marked the second consecutive year where emissions in light and heavy-duty trucks fell. The index found that natural gas continues to be a major source of power in California and is problematic if the state is planning to move away from the use of fossil fuels.

“We added more power capacity from natural gas in the past year than any other source,” said Patrick Adler, a Beacon Economics researcher. The report concluded that homes need to stop using gas, Adler said, it would be an easy switch to all-electric housing.

RELATED: San Diego County supervisors push forward on complicated Climate Action Plan

There are present issues state officials have trouble dealing with. Climate change is increasing the frequency and size of wildfires in California, and those fires release carbon into the atmosphere. “It’s possible for wildfire emissions to exceed emissions from other sources,” Adler said.

On a positive note, the state had a vibrant clean energy economy. The report found the solar industry employed 124,817 jobs. Renewable wind power has approximately 6,273 jobs, but the numbers may rise dramatically if the Biden administration’s climate change policies are approved by congress.