For California to continue to be at the ‘head of the class’ on climate leadership, it must move forward on setting climate pollution reduction goals through 2030.
AB 32, the state’s landmark climate law, passed in 2006 and established a statewide emissions goal of reducing climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. California is well on the way to meeting that goal through a suite of policies, including cap and trade, which puts an absolute limit on this harmful pollution.
California was ahead of the curve, having passed a law in 2006 to stop unlimited climate pollution in the state. And since 2009 — spurred by AB 32 policies and a guarantee of reductions over a decade into the future — venture capital investments in California’s green sectors have grown by over 30 percent.
State legislators in California did not know what the energy landscape would look like in 2020 when they passed AB 32, but they set a goal and the state’s strong policies have helped to drive the growth of low-carbon energy sources around the country. For example, solar power generation in California has almost doubled in the last year, the cost of solar panel nationwide dropped 75% per watt from 2008-2011, and wind power generation has more than tripled in that time.
While California’s climate leadership has clearly skipped a grade or two along the way, the state is not like the 15-year-old who’s getting her Masters at Harvard. In the last 12 months alone, California has signed Memorandums of Understanding on climate with other countries including China and Peru, and formed the Pacific Coast Collaborative with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Governor Jerry Brown mentioned that he plans to go to Mexico next to forge collaboration on environmental issues.
Others are following California’s lead because the Golden State’s policies can create a low-carbon economy that benefits clean energy businesses in and out of the state. For instance, Waste Management Inc., headquartered in Texas, receives credits for producing Liquefied Natural Gas from biomethane at its landfill in California, through the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, benefitting the environment and their bottom line.
Just a few months ago, the Governor of Washington kicked off a discussion of a state climate plan, and 28 other states have enacted renewable portfolio standards, though California’s remains the most ambitious. With EPA’s recently announced Clean Power Plan, which places the first ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, even more states are likely to jump in with proactive climate policies.
While the Clean Power Plan sets a nationwide climate pollution reduction goal for 2030, California has the chance to raise the ante. Even though every state now has to craft their own plan to limit power plant pollution, California should lead by setting an ambitious statewide 2030 goal that aligns with the longer-term target set out in a 2005 executive order of reducing emissions 80% by 2050.
As the recent National Climate Assessment confirmed, the effects of climate change to our state and nation are only increasing. To accelerate our state and national transition to cleaner energy, California should continue playing the role of climate change’s “teacher’s pet,” taking bold steps to set an ambitious 2030 pollution reduction goal that encourages other states to follow its lead.