This past Monday, NextGen Climate America hosted the California Climate Leadership Forum at the Kaiser Center in Downtown Oakland. California’s top policymakers, innovators, and community leaders came together to discuss California’s continued leadership in setting policies and developing and deploying new energy technologies that reduce carbon pollution, create jobs and protect public health.
My friends over at NextGen Climate have already posted a Storify rundown of the event and 12 reasons Californians should be excited about 2015. Here I want to take a deeper dive into the policy directions coming out of the forum.
Where we are today
When California’s top climate leaders gathered this week, one message was clear: we are on the right track, but we need to keep pushing forward.
Thanks to the Climate Solutions Act, aka AB32, California is on track to reduce its emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.
Transportation, electricity genration, industrial, residential, and commercial emissions are all down, while California’s population and economic output are up.
But much more needs to be done to reach the state’s long-term goal of reducing emissions 80% by 2050.
Where we need to go
California is at a crossroads. We can continue our amazing progress in developing and deploying new energy technologies that create jobs and reduce emissions, or we can capitulate to the oil companies.
Tom Steyer, Founder, NextGen Climate America Inc
The message from speakers, panelists, and attendees was that California should continue to forge the path forward. In fact, Senator Fran Pavley has already introduced a bill—SB 32—that would lock in California’s 2050 target and require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to set interim targets for 2030 and 2040 consistent with that objective. CARB Chair Mary Nichols made it clear that she would welcome such a mandate.
We need continued investment in renewable energy
California has made great strides in reducing emissions associated with the electricity it consumes. Coal accounts for less than 1 percent of in-state generation and imported electricity from coal amounts to less than 8 percent of total electricity consumption. Meanwhile, generation from renewables, particularly solar, is surging and the state is on track to meet its current requirement to obtain 33% of electricity from renewables by 2020.
Ten years ago, the utilities said [20% electricity from renewables] can’t be done! by 2020. Well here we are in 2014 and its’s already done. We’re passed 20%, we’ll get passed 30, we’ll get passed 40. And we’ll get to 50 and beyond.
We need more electric cars on the road
Forty percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, trucks, and other mobile sources, so we can’t meet our climate goals without deploying low-carbon transportation solutions. Fortunately, like solar, those solutions are far more affordable than they were even a few years ago. Electric vehicles, in particularly, are poised to charge into the mainstream.
We have to electrify everything. EVERYTHING. Less vehicles. Less combustion.
We need to create more advanced energy jobs
A recent survey by Advanced Energy Economy shows California is home to more than 40,000 business serving advanced energy markets on both the supply and demand sides. Advanced energy employment grew 5% in the last year, which is more than double the rate of overall state job growth, and triple the national job growth rate. Best of all, employers are optimistic about the future. More than half of all firms are expecting to add employees during the coming year, for more than 70,000 new jobs.
California companies are creating the future. Advanced energy employment is expected to grow 17% in the coming year, employing over 500,000 Californians in 2015.
We need to hold polluters accountable to protect our communities
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income populations. Across California many communities have been struck by increased asthma rates, lower life expectancy, and higher health care costs due to pollution.
A quarter of our residents in West Oakland and East Oakland… have asthma. One out of four people. My life expectancy… is 12 years different because I live in Oakland rather than Walnut Creek. We want to bridge that gap.
As California’s communities suffer, oil companies are continuing their six-year, $70 million lobbying campaign designed to fool Californians into abandoning AB32. We have fought them and won in that past – and we will do it again and again.
Any efforts to undermine our climate change policies are undermining our global leadership and the future of our economy. The world is watching and we can’t stop now.
We need to decarbonize our economy
Climate solutions will take time to put in place and the opposition will not give up easily. But we must keep pushing California forward to provide the leadership the world needs to prevent climate disaster and ensure that all people—regardless of race or income level—are able to live, work, and play in a clean and safe environment.