Once again, California leads the way on climate change


Two very different approaches are emerging when it comes to energy policy in this country: One that looks boldly toward the future, and one that beckons backwards to the dirty, polluted past. We can see the second approach on display in places such as North Dakota or the Canadian tar sands, where large, politically connected consortia of Big Oil giants are racing to exact as much fossil fuel from the ground, and then ship it through pipelines that are prone to leaks, or on trains that have been known to derail and trigger devastating explosions. These actions, which will ultimately pump more carbon into our atmosphere and accelerate the crisis of global warming, are the result of a short-sighted U.S. energy policy called “all-of-the-above.” This has led to a sharp increase in fossil fuel production in America at the very same time that our government is also urging a more serious approach to climate change.

If your political views are shaped solely by the news coming out of Washington, D.C., it would be hard to contemplate that there’s any other course. But if you follow the headlines out of the state of California, you would know that another path is possible. Not long ago, I told you about the Golden State’s innovative agreement to close its last remaining nuclear plant, substituting energy from clean, renewable sources. That’s just the latest innovation from a state that has been out front on mandating electric cars and other innovations to curb both greenhouse gases and smog. These policies can make a big difference — if for no other reason than the fact that California is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies.

This summer, California’s leaders have launched even bolder measures meant to fight off climate change:

California is extending its plan to drastically cut carbon emissions for another 10 years under a pair of bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Thursday, marking a major step forward in the fight against climate change.

The new legislation will significantly ramp up the state’s existing efforts to reduce emissions, including increasing the state’s reliance on solar power, offering rebates for electric cars and placing stronger regulations on businesses. 

SB 32, authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), extends a 2006 law that required the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. (California is currently on track to meet that goal.) Under the new legislation, California must reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. AB 197, written by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), establishes a new legislative committee to oversee environmental regulation, giving lawmakers more say in efforts to improve air quality and reduce pollution. 

The new goals are the most ambitious of any U.S. state. And given the sheer scale of it ? California’s economy is now the world’s sixth largest ? the law could also serve as a model for international efforts to reduce emissions. “Climate change is real, and knowing that, California is taking action,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “SB 32 and AB 197 are far-reaching moves that continue California on its path of vast innovation and environmental resilience.”

Over the last couple of years, I’ve often pointed toward Europe as a model of what is possible when it comes to turning around the battleship of fossil fuel addiction. But truthfully, one need look no farther than our own back yard, if California can be called that. In recent years, the state’s tough fuel and emissions standards have forced the American automakers into action, and I have little doubt that its gold-standard policies on broader greenhouse gas emissions will have the same impact on America’s energy suppliers. With Washington hopelessly gridlocked, I only hope that other U.S. state capitals are taking notice.

Find out more about the new climate change legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-climate-law_us_57d2d195e4b03d2d459a0747

Learn more about the need for worldwide action on fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on Americahttp://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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