Smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases. Photo courtesy Environmental Protection Agency

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday committing California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The new target is the most aggressive enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half. Brown’s executive order aligns California’s greenhouse gas reduction target with Europe ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.

“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.

The state is on track to meet or exceed the current target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, as established in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 will make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.

The targets are in line with scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius — the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels.

California’s action was quickly welcomed by the international community.

“Four consecutive years of exceptional drought has brought home the harsh reality of rising global temperatures to the communities and businesses of California,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “There can be no substitute for aggressive national targets to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions, but the decision today by Governor Brown to set a 40 percent reduction target for 2030 is an example of climate leadership that others must follow.”

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said,“California’s 2030 goal to reduce carbon emissions is not only bold, it’s necessary — for the economy and our future.”

The executive order directs state government to factor climate change into state agencies’ planning and investment decisions and implement measures under existing agency and departmental authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.