Meg Whitman penned an op-ed last week stating she’d suspend California’s landmark climate-change legislation, AB32, on her first day if elected governor. This is backwards thinking, and I disagree.
Experts estimate that the four largest clean-energy industries (solar, wind, biofuels, and fuel-cell) will have combined annual revenues of $255 billion by the middle of the next decade. The question isn’t whether the world will move towards cleaner living – the question is how soon this trend will take hold.
There is no better, more fertile place in the United States for green technology and green-collar jobs to take shape than California.
California’s challenge is competitiveness, grasping as much of the share of these markets as possible by being the industry leader in greenhouse gas abatement technology. To date, we’ve done a great job – California captured $6.6 billion in green capital between 2006-2008. And all these start-ups need workers; so green jobs have the potential to be for California what the defense industry was in 1980s.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust, between 1997 and 2007, “clean energy spurred the opening of 10,209 businesses with 125,390 jobs in California.”
That’s 125,000 people working on protecting our environment and earning family-sustaining wages at the same time. And all these new jobs came about before AB32 really kicked in! The potential employment upside to AB32 is staggering. Growth in green-collar jobs outpaced overall job growth nationwide by 250 percent – astounding.
Clearly, being on the cutting edge of innovation is a net positive for California’s economy, not a negative. As we mark the three-year anniversary of AB32’s signing today, we should acknowledge that its oft-vilified targets are not only achievable but also actually good for California’s economy. The Governor’s own Climate Action Team reported back in 2006 that AB32 would provide “billions of dollars in savings for businesses and residents, and tens of thousands of new jobs by 2020.” It’s both affordable and plausible.
We’re proving as much in San Francisco. Our Local-Global Climate Action Plan sets the ambitious target of reducing our greenhouse gas levels 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Well, we’ve already achieved a 5 percent reduction below 1990 levels, and we’ve still got a few more years to get all the way to 20 percent… (continues on page 2:)
Gavin Newsom, 41, is the youngest San Francisco mayor in over a century. Newsom, the son of William and Tessa Newsom, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, graduating in 1989 with a B.A. in political science. After only 36 days as mayor, Newsom gained worldwide attention when he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This bold move set the tone for Newsom’s first term. Under his energetic leadership, the economy grew and jobs were created. The city became a center for biotech and clean tech. He initiated a plan to bring universal health care to all of the city’s uninsured residents. And Newsom aggressively pursued local solutions to global climate change. In 2007, Newsom was re-elected with over 73% of the vote. Since then he has built upon the successes of his first term, launching new environmental initiatives and a comprehensive strategy to transform one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods into a life sciences, digital media, and clean tech center.