Climate Change Governor Brown meets with California mayors yesterday about the drought (Facebook/KSEE24).

Published on April 29th, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert

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California Issues Unprecedented North American Climate Goal

April 29th, 2015 by  

Just two hours ago, California Governor Jerry Brown raised the bar for the rest of the US, Mexico, and yet-uncommitted Canada on limiting climate change. Brown issued an executive order to reduce California GHGs by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Governor Brown meets with California mayors yesterday about the drought (Facebook/KSEE24).

Governor Brown meets with California mayors yesterday about the drought (Facebook/KSEE24).

Over four terms as governor, Brown has occupied the forefront of efforts by state governors to confront climate change. The state’s two-year-old cap-and-trade program and other climate-friendly policies have already set California GHG emissions on a downward course.

The new carbon reduction goal, which Brown calls the most aggressive GHG target by any North American government to date, eclipses even the one President Obama announced for the nation along with China’s pledge last fall (a CO2 emissions cut of 28% below 2005 levels by 2030). It matches the goal of the European Union. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Canada, says she applauds Governor Brown’s continued leadership on climate change, citing it as a confirmation that regional governments can play a very important role in shaping strong global agreement.

Ari Phillips reports in ThinkProgress:

“California’s planned reduction falls between the state’s 2020 goal of reducing GHGs to 1990 levels, and a long-term 2050 goal of reducing GHGs by 80 percent under 1990 levels. It also falls in line with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Brown plans to lower California GHGs by increasing the role of renewable energy to 50% by the same date. As Brown stated in his January inaugural address, he also aims reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50%, double the efficiency of existing buildings, and make heating fuel use cleaner. The government will also incorporate climate impacts into all future infrastructure and state agency planning and investments.

Says Chris Busch, Director of Research at Energy Innovation:

“Today’s executive order is another step toward a safe climate future, and further proof that environmental quality can go hand-in-hand with economic growth. California has been emboldened by progress since AB 32 [the California Global Warming Solutions Act] was adopted in 2006. In the years since then, emissions have fallen by 6%.”

During the same period of time, the state’s economy grew by 9%. “EI’s analysis of emissions trends and cap levels shows reductions of the type that will be needed, through 2020 and beyond to 2030, [and] will be affordable,” Busch says. In its March policy recommendation paper, EI called for California to reduce its GHG emissions to at least this level. See all of EI’s recent California policy work, including detailed electricity sector recommendations, here.

California has much at stake in holding back climate change. The state has entered its fourth year of ruinous drought, which climate forecasters are calling a new normal. Water rationing has become commonplace, and for the second year state lawmakers have had to produce a billion-dollar emergency drought relief plan.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim comments:

“Four consecutive years of exceptional drought has brought home the harsh reality of rising global temperatures to the communities and businesses of California. There can be no substitute for aggressive national targets to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions, but the decision today by Governor Brown to set a 40% reduction target for 2030 is an example of climate leadership that others must follow.”

The California pledge should inspire other states and localities. It will also improve the American contribution to world climate efforts (INDCs).  A major United Nations conference at the end of this year will finalize the first draft of the world plan. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, had this reaction:

“California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe. It is yet another reason for optimism in advance of the UN climate conference in Paris in December.”

In typically exuberant fashion, Brown commented that “taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels.”


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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."



  • Jerry Brown is irrational and uniformed. Google *Moderating Climate Change Hysteria* and *The Renewable Energy Disaster* for the real facts. All Brown will do is increase the cost of energy and food while also increasing unemployment and pollution, If Brown really wants to help California, he should declare war on illegal invasion and stop dignifying invaders by calling them “immigrants”. There are no good Democrats left any more. They all have to be thrown out of office. Insanity is not a viable solution for America.

  • No way

    The north american country Costa Rica has much more ambitious climate goals, so it’s not unprecidented.

  • NRG4All

    From a life-long Republican with the exception of the last decade, if you want to see any progress, vote Democratic. I received a piece that showed the voting records on climate change issues and the list was overwhelmingly Republican. I have sent letters to AZ’s elected officials (Republicans) and got nowhere. The state won’t even allow Tesla to be able to have showrooms in the state where you could buy a Tesla. Our governor has even signed a bill making it unlawful for any municipality in the state to ban plastic grocery bags, no matter what the citizens of the municipality may want. It seems as though the fossil fuel industry and the state’s car dealers have bought and paid for our politicians.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Me too. Still a registered republican. I’m a fiscal conservative. We shouldn’t spend what we don’t have. Cut the the subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuels right now hypocrites! Oil is the largest most successful business in the history of mankind. Fact! They don’t need government handouts.
      Amazing it has gotten to the point where the self-proclaimed “free market” republicans are blocking free market competition, blatantly so. Hypocracy, corruption, and plutocracy (oligarchy if you like, same) at it’s worst, well nearly. (We don’t have a corrupt dictator yet.)

  • Larmion

    Decent, but what is so very ambitious about this?

    40% would be highly challenging if California were to start from an already relatively low level of per capita emissions. But like most of the US, California could cut its carbon emissions by about 40% and still be a bigger per capita polluter than a typical European country is today.

    • nakedChimp

      don’t be a ‘self-esteem sucker’ 😉

      I think one should be happy a Governor can stand in front of press and say things like that and not being too worried about some cracknut shooting him on the way back to the car..

      • Martin

        Well perhaps in 5 years or less we will see politicians in places like Canada and Australia making similar statements?
        I know that sounds like wishful thinking, but I am still an optimist. 🙂

        • Mike Shurtleff

          It’s not wishful. Tony Abbott in Australia is doomed politically. The switch has already happened in Queensland.

  • Kyle Field

    Heck yeah. Get em tiger 🙂

  • Alaa

    This is a plus for the likes of Tesla especially the home and grid storage idea.

  • Asok Asus

    Apparently California’s climate and the rest of the world’s climate neatly disconnect all around California’s border such that all of the extremely costly “carbon reduction” endeavors negatively impacting California energy costs for families and industries will stop global warming in California, even though the rest of the world, particularly China and India are doing jack-squat to decrease their carbon outputs, which would otherwise completely negate the puny (but extremely expensive) carbon reduction California is attempting IF such a climate disconnect didn’t exist.

    In other words, if such a climate disconnect between California and the rest of the world didn’t exist, California’s “carbon reduction” actions to destroy it’s economy and its peoples’ well-being would be completely insane.
    .

    • Epicurus

      “China and India are doing jack-squat to decrease their carbon outputs”

      “Earlier this week, China’s National Energy Administration revealed that
      the country had installed 5.04 GW of new solar capacity in the first
      quarter of 2015 — over half of what the country installed in 2013 and in
      2014, and well above analysts’ expectations.”

      Also:

      http://cleantechnica.com/2015/04/29/china-government-study-sees-86-renewables-2050/

      “all of the extremely costly ‘carbon reduction’ endeavors negatively
      impacting California energy costs for families and industries”

      http://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/20/georgetown-texas-aims-for-100-solar-wind-power-within-2-years/

      “Georgetown Utility Services isn’t required to buy solar or other
      renewables – we did so because it will save on electricity costs and
      decrease our water usage.”

      You and and the fossil fuel industry need some new talking points.

    • Doug Cutler

      “China and India are doing jack-squat to decrease their carbon outputs”

      China is installing solar at a very rapid pace: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100027336/solar-to-match-coal-in-china-by-2016-threatening-fossil-dominance/#45827053125311934

      Wind too: http://cleantechnica.com/2015/04/01/chinas-offshore-wind-growth-surges-487-9/

      China’s coal consumption is down last year and may already be peaking:
      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/02/26/3627490/china-coal-peak/

      China is reviewing new plans to transition to non-carbon economy while maintaining massive economic growth: http://cleantechnica.com/2015/04/29/china-government-study-sees-86-renewables-2050/

    • beernotwar

      So you didn’t even read the other article on the front page headlined “China Government Study Sees 85% Renewables by 2050?” They aren’t waiting until 2049 to start — they are installing renewables at a very high rate right now.

    • djr417

      Did you even bother to read the article? or just spout your bs out of habit. Californias economy grew by 9% so its not like this is destroying the economy.
      Go troll somewhere else.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      “California’s “carbon reduction” actions to destroy it’s economy and its peoples’ well-being”

      On economy:

      Wind is already the lowest cost source of electricity on the grid in some areas and still falling in cost. Solar PV is close behind and still falling more rapidly in cost. Very low cost battery storage is now coming to the market …and since Solar PV has a large economic advantage at the end of the grid (for homes and businesses both) you’ll see this explode in use …to most people’s economic benefit. The smart money investments for new energy are on clean energy and energy conservation. “Destroying the economy” has been the constant lament of entrenched industries and it ain’t been so. It certainly won’t be the case going forward, with the continuing downward trend in the cost of Wind, Solar PV, and Battery Storage.

      On China and India:

      Yes, they are still sending out ever more CO2, particularly China. This is changing. China has embraced Solar more than any country in the world with the exception of Germany who has slowed down. They are recognizing their horrible health problem in cities from coal and auto pollution. They realize they cannot build enough thermal plant (coal and nuke) because they do not have the water resources for it. They are pushing Wind and Solar development hard. They are mandating ever more EVs, as well. (1) to fight pollution (2) to provide lower cost energy. They realize what you do not, it’s a win win.

      India’s new Prime Minister Modi is pushing Solar very hard. The latest goal is 69 GW by 2019, four years! It’s not just talk. It is happening. …and when you have this kind leadership business follows instead of fighting progress, again a win win. (I wish we had more Jerry Browns in the US and fewer pawns of big entrenched and old tech business.) India already has quite a bit of Wind, expect that to continue as well. India is already importing less coal from Australia. Tony Abbott is not happy about that.

      Solar PV and Storage are beginning to do what fossil fuels have failed to do for a century. They are bringing low-cost more-affordable power to millions of the world’s poor without any power.

      On people’s well-being:

      Here is a link to a Chinese documentary on their pollution problem:
      http://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/05/dome-chinese-documentary-air-pollution-spurs-governement-action/
      Dirt bag far right has been saying we cannot compete with the Chinese with all these environmental regulations for many years. Hey, well it ain’t worth the slow death they have. …just like what we saw when the iron curtain fell. Who would have guessed? Told them so!!! The huge irony being:
      (1) Greater energy efficiency causes less pollution and saves money. It is BETTER ECONOMICALLY. A good source, working on this with several large companies in US and Abroad, is the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).
      (2) Clean energy from Wind and Solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in many areas. It will be the cheapest in MANY more by 2020, including much of the continental US. (Hawaii is a major no-brainer for conversion to mostly Solar PV and Wind at current prices.)
      (3) VERY LOW-COST battery storage is now coming to the market, which will make Solar PV at the end-of-grid the lowest cost source of electricity for virtually all of the Southern US and the Southeast where electricity prices are higher.
      (4) EVs that can run on this new clean electricity are going to be the cheapest form of light truck and car transportation within a few short years. The cost of EV batteries is dropping much faster than predicted.
      I digress, sorry…

      Back to human health briefly:

      Coastal Southern California (LA area particularly) suffers from geography that traps local pollution, from cars particularly, but other sources too. This area in the US would be much worse than cities in China right now if were not for progressive environment and anti-pollution laws there. A high rate of health problems and early death is not good for the economy either. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch just part of the Chinese Documentary.

      Please educate yourself some here Asok, you look like a deer in the headlights in your picture. 😉

      • Asok Asus

        Wind and solar are NOT cheaper when you remove all taxpayer subsidies and when you factor in the costs of the massive fossil-fuel power plants necessary for when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow

        • Bob_Wallace

          Oh, dear me. You aren’t aware that the cost of new onshore wind and PV solar are now cheaper than new coal would be were we to build any? That’s unsubsidized wind and solar.

          And you aren’t aware that we massively subsidize coal by not requiring coal to pay for its external costs?
          We pay between $140 billion and $242 billion taxpayer dollars every year to cover the health problems caused by coal. We pay many, many billions on top of that for environmental damage. The annual total taxpayer cost for coal use runs around $500 billion.

          Furthermore, do you not realize that coal, nuclear and natural gas plants also have to be backed up for when they go off line?
          In fact, coal and nuclear have to be backed up with spinning reserve since a large plant shutdown cannot be predicted. It’s easy to predict ahead of time when wind and solar inputs will drop so the backup can sit idle for hours, even days, at a time rather than continuously using fuel.

          Finally, we build no new fossil fuel plants to back up wind and solar. We simply use the existing ones less and save fuel costs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            BTW, uprating one’s own comments makes one look like a doofus.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            I down voted him.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Catch up Asok. Wind is the lowest cost source of new electricity for the grid …without subsidies! Only exception might be hydro and that has some limitations.
          The wind seems to be blowing somewhere all the time in Iowa. Over 28% of that state’s electricity came from wind last year. They have not needed the fossil fuel power backup you and other nay-sayers claim.

          Solar PV is the only source of power that is a commodity product. It also has the tremendous cost advantage by being the only source of energy that can produce at the point of use. It is already less than half the cost of end-of-grid electricity in Australia and Hawaii. It is saving owners money in California and other continental US states.
          Very low-cost storage is now coming to the market that will allow evening and night use of Solar PV. Some storage or back up power will still be needed for cloudy weather. I nominate Wind and NG. Cheaper. Cleaner.

          Not only are you wrong about the cost of Wind and Solar, but also THEY ARE STILL FALLING IN COST! SIGNIFICANTLY!

    • Joseph Dubeau

      California economy ranks 8th. Reducing our impact has a profound effect.
      We have affected the car industry.

  • Michael G

    There is a lot of wastage here in CA. We are also coming off an unusually wet period of several hundred years. We’d have a Iot of water left over if we’d conserve better. I did my own investigation of the drought after a previous discussion here and a lot of news coverage. I assembled it here for anyone that’s curious.

    http://calpensionsbrief.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-california-drought.html

  • beernotwar

    It’s sad that it takes an environmental disaster to push for the kind of dramatic change the science has demanded for decades. Hopefully there is still time for us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    • AJ Weerasinghe

      The day Earth stood still, all over again.

      • Dragon

        All over again? Have we had giant robots stomping around disintegrating things in the past? I always seem to miss the cool stuff…

  • Dragon

    I don’t understand how Brown can do things like this and yet not ban fracking or ban dumping of fracking wastewater into our dwindling aquifers. I guess he believes the “bridge fuel” argument and ignores the release of methane and groundwater contamination? I think it’s probably something more like he doesn’t want to fight on too many fronts at once, but it’s maddening. I’m rather surprised he even has the authority to issue an executive order of this magnitude. I hope this order won’t be held up in court till he’s out of office… =/ And if the Trans Pacific Partnership gets passed we’ll have mega corporations suing him for “lost profits”.

    • Aku Ankka

      I suspect it really is, like you said, choosing one’s battles. As damaging as fracking is, it may still be less urgent to tackle, since it can be stopped more quickly, whereas building new renewable capacity take much longer. So needs to be done ASAP.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    In the picture, Brown looks angry. I hope we have plan. Good article!

  • Martin

    Now if some or a lot of other politicians can lean from that.
    I do applaud those goals!
    But on a global scale is it not like waiting to start putting the fire out after it has been burning for hours, not when it started?
    I hope for us (mankind) that it is still time to act.
    But some people still do not understand or do not want to understand the impact our actions have. :((

    • Ross

      Roll on the day when the denier politicians can’t block progress, we’ll be able to ignore them completely as the crazy people they are.

      • Mike Dill

        The economics will turn the tide, as new PV and wind are cheaper than coal or CCGT. Storage is also getting to the place where the money will make the change happen.

        • Aku Ankka

          True, but one challenge is this: it is not just about what to build going forward. It is also about replacing what already exists — most of existing FF power plants will need to be replaced, many way before their natural end of life.

          And this is something that economics alone may not solve fast enough (meaning: while it wouldn’t be economical to build more FF capacity, it may be more economical to keep using old for quite a bit longer). That’s where political will is needed to fast track progress, and have even a slight chance of preventing catastrophic climate change.

          But it’s of course great to have economics on our side now or very soon.

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