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Climate Change california state house

Published on March 21st, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

9

If the Whole U.S. Followed in California’s Footsteps

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March 21st, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
 
 
This is a great guest post by Rebecca Friendly of the Center for American Progress, via Climate Progress. Enjoy!

california state houseby Rebecca Friendly

California, a state that’s historically been at the cutting edge of environmental and climate policies, continues to take bold steps in order to address climate change.

Climate studies and projections indicate that California will be hit hard by climate change, losing a great deal of its snow pack (a vital source of freshwater), and experiencing at least one meter of sea level rise by 2100. With the most advanced climate plan of any state, California is taking these threats very seriously (see “Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy“).

What if the rest of the country were as motivated as California? The answer: we’d definitely be one of the leading countries in leading the fight against climate change.

California-based author Mark Hertsgaard recently wrote an eye-opening piece for Yale Environment 360 asking that question. He highlights the various mechanisms California has implemented, including aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, vehicle emission standards, and renewable energy targets.

In fact, if the rest of the United States had done what California has over the past 40 years, the world might be well on the way to slowing climate change. For in that case, the U.S. today, like California, might be consuming the same amount of energy as it did 40 years ago….  What’s more, the international community might have had a better chance of reaching a deal at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, because the U.S. might have embraced rather than shunned the goal of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050.

As we move through this vapid period in America’s national clean energy strategy, it’s important to remember what California has done in recent years.

Through bold and innovative policies, California state officials are working to reduce pollution, protect the health of residents, and stabilize climate change — all while attempting to transition to an economy where sustainability is profitable. Hertsgaard’s column shows that such an economy is already taking shape due to the bipartisan Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the continuity of climate policy under Gov. Brown.

The passage of AB 32 in 2006 signaled the state’s commitment to green policies and long-term progressive thinking over partisanship. It established the first-ever mandatory reporting guidelines for global warming pollution, and set a limit for carbon, requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 and cut them by 80 percent by 2050. To accomplish these goals, the state was to establish a price for carbon, a low-carbon fuel standard, create energy efficiency standards, and create a statewide renewable electricity standard of 33% by 2020.

This January, the California Air Resources Board approved a sweeping package of progressive automobile standards known as the California clean car rules. These policies are an important first step in the larger goal of bringing state emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.  This package will increase the number of low-pollution and zero emission vehicles available to consumers by 15% by 2025. Half a million of these cars are expected to be fuel cell or electric powered.  This new package is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 52 million tons a year by 2025.

California utilities are also pushing forward to meet the statewide renewable electricity standard. While there are still a number of integration challenges that need to be dealt with, the state has maintained its leadership in solar deployment thanks to the Million Solar Roofs program and the installation of large-scale concentrating solar power plants.

In August of this year, California will also follow up on its AB 32 mandates by holding its first auction of emission allowances under its carbon cap-and-trade program. Under this program the allowable emissions for each individual sector will be capped at 90 percent of the previous year’s emissions. Corporations that don’t utilize all of their allotted emission allowances will be able to auction their remaining allowance to companies that go over their limit. Governor Jerry Brown projects that these auctions will earn over $500 million in extra revenue each year.

So what drives this holistic, unprecedented range of investments? Hertsgaard writes about the culture that contributes to such aggressive action in the state:

Matt Rodriquez, the state’s Secretary for Environmental Protection, said he believed it is partly because many Californians, including policymakers, came to the state in the first place “because of its natural beauty and resources” and thus want them protected. The continuity between the climate policies of governors Brown and Schwarzenegger illustrates how the environment is less of a partisan issue in California; Republican and Democratic politicians alike understand that voters value green policies more than party labels. “Even though there may be a variety of political viewpoints, we share the goal of preserving our agricultural land, our forest lands, maintaining a good quality of water, and preserving the California way of life,” explained Rodriquez.

Of course, climate change isn’t just a California issue. Even if the state continues on this path, the lack of action elsewhere will continue to make the problem worse. If we want to truly combat the problem, we need to follow California’s lead on a broader scale.

Rebecca Friendly is a special assistant in the California office of the Center for American Progress.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-M-Wesson/1849880845 Joe M. Wesson

    if the whole U.S. did as California has done the whole country would be bankrupt and need the E.U. to bail us out too. And companies and non-profits would be running like rats on a sinking ship to get away from the oppression. we need economic incentives via lower costs and less regulation, not draconian commands from on high (court). it’s a pitiful lack of insight that drives such extreme measures as those promoted by the global climate change alarmists. it the whole U.S. did as California has done, the sky truly would be falling.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Bogus comment Joe.

      Fact is, if California quit sending more taxes to the federal government than it gets back in benefits all those red-welfare states would find themselves in deep doo-doo.

      And less regulation?

      Do you not recall what too little regulation did to California when Enron got on a roll?

      Have you already forgotten how too little regulation of the financial industry caused the Great Recession of 2007? The very, very deep financial crash out of which we are still crawling….

      Turn off Fox, Joe. It rots your brain….

    • Bob_Wallace

      Bogus comment Joe.

      Fact is, if California quit sending more taxes to the federal government than it gets back in benefits all those red-welfare states would find themselves in deep doo-doo.

      And less regulation?

      Do you not recall what too little regulation did to California when Enron got on a roll?

      Have you already forgotten how too little regulation of the financial industry caused the Great Recession of 2007? The very, very deep financial crash out of which we are still crawling….

      Turn off Fox, Joe. It rots your brain….

  • http://www.e-crm.co.uk Jim Bath

    Most of this websites articles are so far over my head I must look like a dot to them…this I can understand with ease!

    It’s no surprise to me that Cali, being a world centre of technology and innovation, would be a leader in any positive change…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Corcoran/1591985520 Jim Corcoran

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” From the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”

    Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Yep. The bull in the china shop.

  • Jmosca

    New Jersey is installing solar faster based on land area.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Good on New Jersey!

      There’s room for everyone in the lead. This isn’t a race with only one gold medal….

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      True.

      This is about more than solar, though. Not sure of NJ’s other policies.

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