The Utah Department of Environmental Quality announced on Friday a state goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent.
The goal was born out of the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change, which was created by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2006 to address climate issues. The council submitted a report with 72 items aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also recommended Utah set a goal to reduce these emissions.
The DEQ commissioned Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University to analyze the BRAC's report, which included the greenhouse emission goal.
After analysis by the Nicholas Institute, the goal was determined in terms of reducing greenhouse gas along with the economic impact.
"That work is still ongoing," and will continue to evolve and change based on stakeholders' needs, DEQ executive director Rick Sprott said. But as of now however, it was important DEQ establish a goal.
"We really built this goal from the ground up," Sprott said, "rather than just have an aspirational goal that might be pretty stringent and look good but is very difficult to meet in reality."
He said the goal is ambitious and realistic reduce Utah greenhouse gases to 2005 levels by 2020. The reductions are significant as Utah has a high growth rate and is highly carbon dependent; coal fired electric plants supply most of Utah with electricity.
"So we are going to have to find ways, gradually over the years, to reduce that carbon imprint," Sprott said.
Dianne Nielsen, energy adviser for Huntsman, said the state will continue to measure levels of greenhouse gases to evaluate the program's effectiveness, make adjustments and set additional goals.
"This is the first step," she said, "there are a number of others to take."
The plan has three major parts energy measures, a transportation policy and agriculture and forestry plan.
In the energy measures program one of the ways to reduce gases is through renewable energy. SB202 requires that 20 percent of an electricity generator's electricity comes from a renewable resource, such as wind power in Spanish Fork Canyon or geothermal power in Beaver County.
For transportation, she said the market is demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles, more hybrid vehicles and more mass transit.The cost of the program is not known. Sprott said more input from stakeholders and more studies will be needed to evaluate the total cost.