Cleantech Worldwide Breathes Sigh of Relief as California Saves Climate Legislation

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In the largest public referendum in history on climate and clean energy policy, US voters in the eighth largest economy in the world voted to keep going forward on clean energy, and soundly repudiated the arguments of the fossil energy industry. No on Prop 23 voters spanned the full spectrum of Democrats, Independents and Republicans in the state.

California’s voters, representing one in every ten US voters, are in control of the eighth largest economy in the world, and the vote has resonance worldwide.

California is responsible for 40% of all the cleantech funding in the US, and this investment comes not just from within California but worldwide. So if California’ clean energy and climate legislation had collapsed last night, the worldwide cleantech economy would have taken a real hit.

In 2010, the global clean energy market was $10 billion. By 2020, it will reach $80 billion, becoming the world’s third-largest industrial sector.

Canada’s clean energy driven provinces Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, in particular were on edge.

That is because the Western Climate Initiative, the 11 state regional cap and trade group anchored by California’s AB32 was saved last night with the defeat of Prop 23. The WCI is anchored by California, New Mexico, Ontario, Quebec and B.C. in Canada. All five have enabling legislation in place to begin in 2012. California comprises half the market, so if last night the oil companies won, the whole thing would have fallen apart.

A broad bipartisan coalition composed of environmental and public health advocates, businesses, labor unions, the NAACP, Latino organizations, community groups, utilities, consumers was responsible for its defeat.

Significantly, moderate Republicans voted 44% for defeating the oil industry bill, according to election tracking by the No on 23 campaign.

“It’s significant in that it shows that this was not a solid party line vote like it is in Washington,” Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the No campaign told the LA Times. “The new coalition for clean energy is broad and bipartisan.”

As climate hawks nationwide regroup to restart the work on the national level federal clean energy legislation that is crucial to prevent dangerous destabilization of the planet’s climate, we will have lessons to draw from this success.

Very focused education at the community level really was responsible for this rare win in beating back the familiar lies of the extractive energy industry: still the richest and most powerful industry on the planet.

It shows that once they understand a danger, people do not vote against their own best interests.

Image: Anahi Decanio

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