California is taking the lead in the nation's fight against global warming. The Golden State already hit its first target for reducing its greenhouse gas emission it attained this year ahead of schedule.

2020 Greenhouse Gas Emission Goal

California law requires that greenhouse gas emissions, which reached its peak in 2004, return to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The California Air Resources Board on Wednesday showed that the state's greenhouse gas emission already reached this goal.

Data showed that the emissions dropped from the 431 million metric tons the state produced in 1990 to 429.4 million metric tons in 2016, the year that latest data are available. Emissions have dropped by 13 percent since the 2014 peak.

"California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results," Governor Jerry Brown said of the milestone.

Financial Crisis And Expansion Of California's Economy

The 2008 financial crisis cut the number of miles that people drive and the amount of freight that moved through ports, railways, and roads in California. Emissions, however, continue to fall in recent years even with the recovery and expansion of California's economy.

Federal data released in May showed that California's economy is now bigger than that of the United Kingdom. The state would have been the fifth biggest economy in the world if it was an independent country.

Equivalent To Removing 12 Million Cars Off The Road

The board said that the drop in the state's pollution level is equivalent to removing about 12 million cars off the road or saving 6 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

The reduction is partly due to increased use of renewable power in the state. Use of solar electricity from rooftop arrays and powerplants soared by 33 percent in 2016. Imports of hydroelectric power increased by 39 percent in that same year as rains returned to the region after years of drought.

The transportation saw a 2 percent increase in emission in 2016 due to increased fuel consumption, but cars and trucks also use record amount of biofuels.

2030 Goal

California may have achieved its 2020 emission goals, but it is not done yet. State law also mandates that the emissions drop another 40 percent by 2030, which many consider to be a far tougher target.

"There's a good chance that we'll need to take much more aggressive actions to meet those 2030 goals," said Severin Borenstein, energy economist from the UC Berkeley. "It's much more challenging."

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