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California vows to press ahead with climate change programs

By Rory Carroll

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California plans to extend its suite of ambitious and controversial carbon reduction programs beyond 2020, saying the results to date show the state can grow its economy while fighting climate change.

The state's Air Resources Board (ARB) on Monday released an update of its plan to meet its goal of cutting emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century.

The report said the state was on track to meet its goal of cutting its output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to 1990 levels by 2020 even as the economy recovers from a deep recession.

But for the state to meet targets beyond 2020, it will need all sectors, from agriculture to waste management, to play a bigger role than at present, the update said.

"Progressing toward California's long-term climate goals will require that GHG reduction rates be significantly accelerated," the ARB said.

"Emissions from 2020 to 2050 will have to decline at more than twice the rate of that which is needed to reach the 2020 statewide emissions limit."

The ARB stopped short of setting a 2030 emissions reduction target in the 159-page plan, a target that could have implications for the price of carbon in the state's year-old carbon market.

The report did say that California's target should be consistent with commitments elsewhere and noted that the European Union has adopted an emissions reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

California has employed a variety of policies to combat climate change, including a cap-and-trade program that sets a gradually tightening limit on the amount of emissions from covered businesses and allows for the trading of emissions credits on an open market.

The state signaled it will also continue past 2020 with its low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The fuels are measured throughout their lifecycle in an analysis that includes production and transportation as well as ultimate use.

Both the cap-and-trade program and the LCFS are being targeted by lawsuits. The state has so far prevailed against those court challenges, although both cases are expected to be appealed.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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