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Decarbonizing California’s Transportation Sector by 2045

Decarbonizing California’s Transportation Sector by 2045

Since the passing of the California Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006 (AB-32), California has taken an aggressive approach to address the climate crisis. Over the last decade and a half, the state has developed a variety of policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a particular focus on transportation. The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) contracted with the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) on a pair of studies to address this. Learn more about the CalEPA’s involvement here and the UC ITS study here

California’s transportation sector remains the largest source of carbon emissions in the state. In order to meet the emissions reduction goals in the next 25 years, California must accelerate its transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon transportation system. This process must include shifting to a cleaner electric fleet for heavy-duty, medium-duty, and passenger vehicle fleets, reducing the number of vehicle miles travelled, and increasing the production of cleaner energy sources to replace petroleum fuels. Most importantly, these major changes must mitigate environmental and economic burdens on historically marginalized communities, while ensuring that these same communities can secure the benefits of a future low-carbon system. 

The UC Davis Center for Regional Change collaborated with a team of researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UCLA to produce a comprehensive report that provides critical research to set California’s transportation sector on a path to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. This report provides strategies to:

  1. Accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles 
  2. Reduce vehicle miles travelled
  3. Accelerate the use of alternative fuel sources for light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles
  4. Increase equitable economic opportunity, high quality job creation, and skill development. 


The CRC contributions to this report were critical to ensure that equity and environmental justice were well integrated into the research and subsequent policy recommendations. The CRC also collaborated with agency stakeholders to design and facilitate community engagement workshops to inform the report and its dissemination. “We must confront the legacy of the lack of public and private investment where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) live and work,” said Bernadette Austin, Executive Director of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. “This report identifies ways to strategically invest in sustainable infrastructure while intentionally avoiding disruptive and damaging infrastructure in our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.” Ultimately the equity aspects of the study identified policy options to ensure that the benefits from low-carbon options go first to the communities most in need. 

California has been a leader in developing key policies that tackle climate change, and the success of equitable and just policies that support the states’ transition towards a low-carbon future can have nationwide effects. This report has the potential to advance policies that not only address climate change, but prioritize the needs and concerns of its most vulnerable populations. 


*Picture credit to California Climate Investment

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