California stands poised to enact the most ambitious carbon pollution reduction goal on the North American continent for the year 2030. The Golden State bears a special burden this year, the fifth of a historic and punishing drought. The drought causes water quality to degrade, surface and groundwater level to decline, and land subsidence. Ultimately, it affects agriculture and other water-sensitive land uses. The state’s huge climate-related wildfires also continue, likely signaling a more destructive new normal.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has declared each of the first seven months of 2016 as the warmest respective month globally since 1880, when recordkeeping began. In the US, cities, states, and regions have already begun to respond to the climate crisis. California — which constitutes the world’s sixth-largest economy — is among the first.
Yesterday, by a bipartisan vote of 47-30, the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 32 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) off the floor and back to the Senate for a procedural vote. The state currently has a target of returning to 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020. SB 32 requires a 40% reduction by 2030.
Its companion bill, Assembly Bill 197 from Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), passed out of the Senate Tuesday and out of the Assembly yesterday. Says Garcia: “In my district, 6 out of 10 children have asthma. We don’t have clean air. In this context of climate change and global warming, we talk a lot about making sure we save polar bears. I want to talk about saving children and making sure they don’t have to live with dirty air.”
More than a dozen assembly members flipped votes this year to support the AB 197 California carbon reductions bill. It is now on its way to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. Here’s Governor Brown discussing climate change at the recent Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (video here).
Together, these bills specify the most aggressive emissions targets in North America. They also reconfirm the state’s emphasis on equity, transparency, and accountability. Both have bipartisan support, confirming California as a leader in climate policy. Because the measures are joined, unless both pass — which is an increasingly likely scenario — neither can become law.
While SB 32 and AB 197 have faced strenuous opposition from the petroleum industry, Governor Brown stands firm:
“[B]ig oil bought a full-page ad in the capital city’s newspaper of record to halt action on climate. [Yesterday…] the Assembly Speaker, most Democrats, and one brave Republican passed SB 32, rejecting the brazen deception of the oil lobby and their Trump-inspired allies who deny science and fight every reasonable effort to curb global warming. I look forward to signing this bill—and AB 197—when they land on my desk.”
Says Alex Jackson, legal director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California Climate Project:
“California has always led the way in protecting our environment and fighting climate change. And it’s poised to make climate history again…. The world is watching and California is stepping up.”
Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonpartisan business group, recently studied proactive climate policies in the state. E2 found that these measures have injected about $48 billion into California’s economy over the past decade and helped create over half a million jobs. California carbon reductions will constitute another milestone.