About ten years ago back in 2006 the state of California took the very bold step of passing legislation that was designed to slash their greenhouse emissions. This was Assembly Bill (AB) 32- California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and was passed with the aim of establishing a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources throughout the state.
“generating jobs, promoting a growing, clean-energy economy and a healthy environment for California at the same time.”
The goal was to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year of 2020, representing approximately a 30% reduction statewide, so we do need to ask ourselves how they got there, how that has been working out, and what happens next.
What steps did they take?
Basically anything and everything that includes the rather obvious such as energy production from renewables to nudging consumers to switch transport from combustion engines to electric cars. Beyond that they also looked at ways to strive for far better efficiency in their use of fuel and of course water. They even looked into reducing methane emissions from landfill sites.
California Governor Jerry Brown has been taking about some of the challenges they faced …
“It wasn’t too many years ago that our electric utilities said they could not get to 20 percent renewable electricity,” Brown told a meeting hosted by the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s power grid. “Well, this month it’s been over 26 percent. They said they couldn’t get there by 2020. Now, they’re all saying — all the major privately owned utilities — they can get to 50 percent by 2030.”
Has it really worked?
If you consider that their goal was to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (just 4 years away now), then by that measure it is indeed, so far, a success story. They are on track to not just meet, but probably exceed that goal.
What comes next?
The latest news is that they have now extended all of this for another ten years by enacting new legislation that has even more ambitious goals …
The new measure by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, sets a new goal of reducing emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, which Brown called the most aggressive target enacted by any government in North America.
He says the ultimate goal is to cut climate-warming pollution by 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050, though legislation that would have enacted that target was watered down.
So step by step they are truly making a realistic move in the right direction.
What If …
There are quite obviously still many many challenges on the road ahead for California. However, I can’t help but wonder where we would be now if it had not been just California, but everybody had taken similar measures back in 2006. We would perhaps be far further down the road of actually addressing what is perhaps the greatest existential threat we have ever faced.
The world is full of missed opportunities. For example, what if back in 2000 it was Al Gore sitting in the White House instead of that walking disaster, George W. It was close, very very close, Bush won with just 930 votes and even that number is itself highly dubious because a recount was stopped.
California does now also now face huge imminent risks that threaten to derail all the progress that has been achieved. A Trump presidency will in all probability simply abandon the rules, incentives, and programs designed to reduce emissions. This is not speculation, Trump, has clearly articulated his position and said that he would eliminate the EPA, which oversees many of those rules and programs.
Quick fact check, is that really his position, where does Trump really stand on climate change? For example, did he actually state that climate change is just a Chinese Hoax, or is that just a bit of political theatre emanating from those opposed to him?
It is all true, not only did he state this, but he actually tweeted this absurd and utterly daft claim out a couple of years ago.
If Trump makes it to the White House, then it will be a disaster, not just for the US, but for all of us because pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement would most probably scupper it.
California would most probably continue to move forward with a cutting edge progressive approach that really does lay the foundation for actually tackling climate change in a meaningful manner, but if it is only them and nobody else in the US takes similar steps, then it will not be enough.