Carbon Neutrality Overview

The State of California is committed to achieving a just and equitable transition to carbon neutrality by 2045 (Executive Order B-55-18, 2018). Achieving this ambitious goal requires both significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including sequestration in forests, soils, and other natural landscapes. Reaching carbon neutrality requires working across all sectors. OPR collaborates on a number of State efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. For more information on the State’s overall framework for implementation and tracking progress, please visit the California Air Resources Board (CARB) webpage.

State Efforts


SB 100 (De Leon, 2018), the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018, requires California’s renewable energy and zero-carbon resources to supply 100 percent of electric retail sales to end-use customers, and 100 percent of electricity procured to serve state agencies, by 2045. The bill requires that the transition to a 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity does not cause or contribute to increases of greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere in the western electricity grid. OPR supports SB100 by informing planning priorities through the General Plan Guidelines.


Transportation emissions present the State’s biggest hurdle to achieving carbon neutrality. Transportation emissions account for about 50% of total statewide GHG emissions (transportation emissions include tailpipe emissions as well as emissions associated fuel extraction, transportation, and refinement that have historically been attributed to the industrial sector). The State is working to reduce emissions from driving overall, as well as to increase the number of Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) on the road. OPR helps advance two key policy priorities that help reduce transportation emissions:

  • Vehicle Miles Traveled: SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013) updated the way transportation impacts are measured in California for new development projects, making sure they are built in a way that allows Californians more options to drive less. Measuring vehicle miles traveled (VMT) helps communities across the state plan for a future that increases access to destinations and services all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. July 1, 2020, was the statutory deadline to begin using VMT as the metric for transportation analysis in CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). To help communities make this shift, OPR published Technical Advisory guidance and curated a list of useful tools, instructional videos, and background materials on the Transportation Impacts webpage.
  • Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI): In response to Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders to operationalize climate in state investment decisions (N-19-19, 2019 and N-79-20, 2020), the State’s Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is leading multi-agency efforts to align climate goals with transportation spending, reducing vehicle miles traveled and congestion, funding transportation options that take into account the health of Californians and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, addressing future climate risk, and mitigating increases in transportation costs for lower income Californians.

Buildings and other State assets:

The State is working to reduce emissions and energy use from the 19-million square-feet of buildings it manages, and the 51,000 vehicles and other physical assets it owns. Through E.O. N-19-19 OPR works in partnership with the Department of General Services to integrate future climate risks into State asset investment decisions.

Carbon Dioxide Removal:

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, the State must not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. While many terms can describe capturing carbon, storing or sequestering it, or using it, OPR uses the term “carbon dioxide removal” or “carbon removal” to replace other terms [e.g. “carbon sequestration”, “carbon capture”, “carbon capture, utilization, and storage”, and “negative emissions”].

This commitment requires implementation of strategies that prioritize land-based carbon removal, which refers to any process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere and sequestered in natural or working lands, including in forests, wetlands, ocean ecosystems, agricultural and range lands, and in soils. OPR works in close partnership with several State agencies on the following efforts, ensuring a systems approach that maximizes not only carbon removal, but other critical benefits for local economies, ecosystems, and communities

  • Natural and Working Lands: In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-82-20, directing the State to leverage California’s Natural and Working Lands (NWL) to implement nature-based solutions that will deliver meaningful and credible climate outcomes that achieve carbon neutrality and build resilience to climate change impacts. The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) leads the Expanding Nature-Based Solutions initiative, which includes: 1) developing a Climate Smart Lands Strategy, in collaboration with other State agencies including OPR, to accelerate and expand climate smart land management across California to increase carbon removal and sequestration and build climate resilience; and 2) Advancing the 30x30 goal to conserve at least 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030 as part of the international effort to combat the biodiversity and climate crises.
  • Engineered Solutions: The State is also studying engineered carbon removal’s potential to achieve carbon neutrality for hard-to-decarbonize industries, possible biomass utilization options with carbon capture and storage, and other applications that support renewable fuel production or other uses. Engineered carbon removal refers to technology solutions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including storage or utilization options that keep the carbon sequestered. This term is therefore inclusive of carbon removal technology added to industrial facilities, converting CO2 to products like clean fuels, geologic storage, and Direct Air Capture. Biowaste/biomass pathways, including woody feedstocks, combined with carbon removal technologies that are used to generate energy and/or produce fuels are also included in this category. For more information on the need for carbon removal to achieve carbon neutrality, please see the CARB report Achieving Carbon Neutrality in California.

For More Information

Neil Matouka
Neil Matouka is the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program's Fifth Climate Change Assessment Program Manager.