California Carbon Neutrality

Identifying pathways to reach carbon neutrality in California’s transportation sector


California’s goal of establishing carbon neutrality by 2045 will require policymakers to implement innovative policies and regulations. These policies will need to include short term and long term strategies to meet emissions reductions in an equitable and just way. Transportation is the largest emitting industry, responsible for nearly 50% of emissions when supply chain is accounted for. The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and Center for Regional Change, in collaboration with other UC researchers, are conducting a study focusing on carbon neutrality pathways from the transportation sector, and the external impacts those pathways may result in. Impact assessment will be conducted on the principals of equity and justice, public health, transportation-related industry jobs, environment, resilience and adaptation, access and affordability, and minimizing California’s impact beyond its borders.


To meet California’s goals, transportation will need to undergo significant change and disruptions. Current and future policies must consider the impacts and outcomes of their implementation, and ensure they are equitable and just. Changes to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), to increase the adoption of electric vehicles, to adopt the use of alternative fuels, and to increase the efficiency of the freight will undoubtedly result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, these policies should consider the impacts on economic opportunities for the communities that work in the fossil fuel industries and also tend to be the most negatively impacted by emissions. Because of that, this study will also focus on job creation and integrated skill delivery as a means to increase economic opportunity.


Researchers from the UC ITS will lead studies on the strategies outlined above. The first component will focus on strategies to manage declines in transportation-related emissions and fuel demand. This component will also analyze and assess the impacts of the strategies that have already been implemented to reduce transportation-related emissions, including increasing the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles in the light-duty passenger vehicles, and medium-and heavy-duty truck sectors, increase the use of alternative fuels, reduce VMT, and increase economic opportunity. This study will focus on carbon neutrality pathways and will be complemented by a side-by-side study conducted by UC Santa Barbara on the supply-side of the transportation sector.


This project is led by the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies, including UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine, as well as the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.


Through the 2019 Budget Act, the Newsom Administration funded two studies to identify strategies to reduce the demand for and supply of fossil fuels, with the goal of dramatically reducing emissions across the transportation sector—the largest source of emissions in the State, to support the State’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. The purpose of the studies is to identify paths to significantly reduce transportation-related fossil fuel demand and emissions, and, in parallel, manage a strategic, responsible decline in transportation-related fossil fuel supply.

As an intermediate step, we’re publishing the background, policy context, and a 'business as usual' scenario as a synthesis report for the demand-side study, which is available for download here. This report provides critical baseline information that will inform the findings and recommendations in the final report, which will be provided to CalEPA at the end of 2020. A one-page executive summary of the synthesis report can be downloaded here.