The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns that 2010-2019 average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history and urgent action is needed.

The report released Monday said emissions need to be reduced in all sectors and countries should seek to wean themselves off fossil fuels — including industry and the transportation sector.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” said Jim Skea, IPCC Working Group III co-chairperson. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

The assessment report notes that renewable energy technology such as solar, wind and batteries has come down in price by as much as 85%, which should encourage their deployment.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chairman Hoesung Lee. 

“I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”

Global emissions should be halved across all sectors by 2030 through reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen, the IPCC urged, even as it did acknowledge the rate of growth has slowed.

In the transportation sector, President Joe Biden wants to “electrify” the federal fleet, but in fiscal year 2021 agencies purchased less than 700 plug-in vehicles.

Globally, while there has been a 40% increase in electric vehicle sales from 2019 to 2020, the pandemic and supply chain disruptions have challenged that transition. Electric vehicles make up 1% of global vehicle stock.

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Utah, 6 other states pursue regional electric vehicle network

The Utah Legislature recently approved $3 million in spending to boost the electric vehicle charging network in rural parts of the state, and Utah is part of a network of seven states seeking to electrify interstate corridors on a regional basis.

An electric vehicle charges at a charging station at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Washington wants to phase out gas cars by 2030

Some Democratic-led states in the West are moving toward the acceleration of electric vehicle adoption, with Washington state the latest to jump on board.

As part of a nearly $17 billion transportation package, Washington recently passed Move Ahead Washington, which sets a goal of no new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles and light trucks being sold in the state 2030 and beyond.

“We want to be ready for 100% (electric vehicle sales) by 2030, that is the goal,” said Matthew Metz, founder and co-executive director of Coltura, a nonprofit that pushed the initiative as part of its platform to accelerate the switch from gasoline and diesel to cleaner alternatives.

Metz said there is nothing in the Move Ahead Washington package that precludes ownership of a vehicle powered by gasoline in say the year 2029, noting there may be those types of vehicles on the road into 2050.

“My preference is to do this faster.”

With the price per gasoline up more than 50% in just a year’s time, Metz said adoption of electric vehicles will become a new consideration for some consumers.

“By 2025-2026, it will be cheaper, too, to buy an electric vehicle than a gas car because of fewer moving parts,” he said, pointing out electric vehicles have about 20 moving parts compared to gasoline cars with 2,000 moving parts.

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The goal, he added, is to have a full mandate in effect by 2035, similar to what California is planning to do — despite potential for litigation or action by a different administration in a post-Biden era.

An impetus behind the Move Ahead Washington package is for the state to ramp up for an orderly transition by boosting grid capability and transmission infrastructure where necessary and ensuring a robust electric vehicle charging network.

“We need to do that in advance rather than when there is a crisis and having to play catch-up,” Metz said. “We need to seize control of our future rather than have the government bumbling from behind.”

Such an energy mandate would not fly in GOP-controlled Utah, but one lawmaker said innovation and a free market will move the state in that direction.

“I am very much in favor of lowering emissions, but very much in favor of doing it without a mandate,” said Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton and a co-chairman of the Utah Clean Air Caucus.

Handy has done a lot of work legislatively in the clean energy arena and also has worked in consulting in the renewable energy arena.

“The free market, innovation and technology are great at responding to wants and needs if government gets out of the way,” Handy said. “I think the free market will make this happen.”

How much money does renewable energy make for rural Utah’s economy? It’s more than you’d think