California is set to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 as the state takes dramatic steps to reduce emissions and tackle the climate emergency.
In a vote on Thursday, state regulators are expected to approve a plan to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars over the next 13 years in the largest U.S. auto market. The decision is hailed as a major victory that could pave the way for others.
“It’s monumental,” Daniel Sperling, a member of the California Air Resources Board (Carb), told CNN. “It’s the most important thing Carb has done in the past 30 years. It’s important not just for California, but it’s important for the country and the world.
The vote comes two years after state Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring the sale of new cars to be zero emissions.
In 2021, only 12% of new cars sold in California were zero emissions, according to Carb. The new rule would require the state to reach 35% of sales by 2026, 68% by 2030, and 100% by 2035. It wouldn’t affect cars that are already on the road.
The measure, which Sperling said he was almost certain to pass, will be among the first of its kind and serve as an example for other states that often look to California when setting their own standards. Sperling told CNN the proposal faces “surprisingly little debate” and resistance from automakers, which have ramped up production of electric vehicles. General Motors has announced its intention to sell only electric vehicles by 2035.
More than half of California’s carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector, Newsom pointed out. when announcing his decree in 2020. The governor hailed the plan as a crucial step in addressing the climate emergency, which has fueled costly and destructive natural disasters in the state.
“This is the most impactful action our state can take to address climate change,” Newsom said at the time. “California people shouldn’t have to worry if our cars give our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse and create more smoky-air days. Cars should not melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.
Research has shown that a transition to electric cars would have substantial effects in the United States, where transportation is the biggest contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. A report published earlier this year by the American Lung Association revealed that the United States could save 110,000 American lives, $1.2 billion in public health costs and reduce greenhouse gases by 92% by 2050 if they traded gas-powered vehicles for zero-emission cars.