As President Biden moves to establish the United States as a climate leader and clean technology powerhouse, California has a unique opportunity to benefit. But only if we break recent trends and set bold targets for transitioning to a clean energy future.
Historically, the US and the world have looked to California for climate leadership but our current approach is obsolete. Rhode Island committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Los Angeles has a framework for the same goal by 2035. President Biden aims for the US to have clean energy by 2035. The United Kingdom will reduce GHGs 86% below 1990 levels and ban gas-powered vehicles by 2030. Finland committed to net-zero emissions by 2035. California is behind.
That is why The Climate Center has launched Climate-Safe California, a unique, bold, urgently-needed and comprehensive campaign that will catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation and the world.
The campaign offers an immediate opportunity for all of us to get involved and is based on three guiding principles: 1) Acting on the latest science. 2) Providing a just transition for workers, their families and their communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry for their livelihood. 3) Ensuring that policymakers prioritize and support lower-income and communities of color, populations that have been disproportionately harmed by our dependence on fossil fuels.
Below is the framework for the types of policies that must be enacted by California’s legislature no later than 2025 in order to put our state on track for net negative emissions by 2030, net negative meaning we are sequestering more emissions than we release. Yes, these are incredibly tight deadlines, but the crisis demands rapid action and the potential benefits for the economy and social justice are enormous.
- Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel extraction, refining and processing, and end use, such as transportation. California produces and refines massive amounts of oil and natural gas. This has to stop.
- Increase carbon sequestration. This means capturing the emissions we have created through reforestation, carbon agriculture and habitat restoration.
- Invest in community resilience. Unfortunately, even if we do everything to decrease our emissions, the gases we have already spewed into our atmosphere have long half-lives so droughts, fires, floods and hurricanes will be with us for years. Therefore we must find ways to withstand these natural calamities while we work to prevent even more dire events.
- Generate the monies needed for speed and scale climate action. It will cost billions of dollars, but we can’t afford NOT to.
As a center for international research, technology and partnerships, California is positioned to profit by resuming its historic role in climate leadership and propelling the world into adopting more clean technology. Wind and solar power are the most affordable form of new energy in most of the US. Solar power is the cheapest. California helped make possible these clean energy gains and it has the infrastructure to continue this role.