California governor signs landmark climate and clean energy bills into law



By Mike Gaworecki

 

This article was originally published on Mongabay and is republished with permission.

 

  • California Governor Jerry Brown had threatened to take the measure directly to voters via ballot initiative as he approaches the end of his fourth and final term, but in the end, Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) was approved by the California legislature on August 25.
  • Governor Brown signed the bill into law last Thursday.
  • SB 32 extends the climate targets adopted by California under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which required California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

 

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California Governor Jerry Brown had threatened to take the measure directly to voters via ballot initiative as he approaches the end of his fourth and final term, but in the end, Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) was approved by the California legislature on August 25.

 

Governor Brown signed the bill into law last Thursday.

 

SB 32 extends the climate targets adopted by California under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which required California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

 

The state is easily on pace to meet those targets, which has been hailed as not just good news for the climate but for California’s economy, as well. According to a recent report, AB 32 spurred developments that contributed $48 billion to California’s economy and created 500,000 jobs over the past decade.

 

SB 32 and a second, related bill that Brown signed into law last week, Assembly Bill 197 (AB 197), require the state to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The new laws will also require California officials to create a committee to oversee the state’s climate programs and will prod regulators to take stronger action to cut pollution from refineries and other facilities, especially in low-income and minority communities.

 

“Climate change is real, and knowing that, California is taking action,” Governor Brown said in a statement. “SB 32 and AB 197 are far-reaching moves that continue California on its path of vast innovation and environmental resilience.”

 

State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), who wrote AB 197, said that with the two new laws, California’s approach to tackling climate change would now shift to focus more on mitigating the impacts of global warming on local communities. “Our climate change policies, I think today and by the signing of these two bills, represent a turning of the page as it relates to focusing on people,” Garcia told the LA Times.

 

A broad range of environmental, public health, community-based, faith-based, and business groups hailed the passage of the new laws.

 

Timothy O’Connor, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that California, the world’s sixth-largest economy, had already achieved a feat some had feared was impossible by demonstrating that falling greenhouse gas emissions can go hand-in-hand with economic growth.

 

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California wind farm. Photo by reynermedia.

 

“These new laws will ensure the state’s economy and the environment continue to thrive,” O’Connor said in a statement. “Californians and people around the world will benefit from this new set of climate laws, which make California’s long-term climate targets as ambitious as Europe’s.”

 

Mary Leslie, president of the Los Angeles Business Council, said she expected SB 32 to propel California into a healthier future in terms of both the environment and the economy.

 

“We applaud California’s leadership for forging ahead with the confidence that comes from past experience, which assures us that not only are cutting-edge sustainability policies good for our planet, they’re good for business,” Leslie said in a statement.

 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also have positive impacts for public health, according to Olivia Diaz-Lapham, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California.

 

“The lives of those who suffer from asthma, lung cancer, and other lung illnesses will be better thanks to these new laws to combat climate change and improve air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Diaz-Lapham said in a statement. “We commend the Governor for signing these groundbreaking pieces of legislation that will have a direct impact on the lung health of all Californians.”

 

Not everyone is celebrating California’s climate action, however. Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, faulted the new laws for not requiring that state regulatory agencies “give any consideration to the impacts on our economy, disruptions in everyone’s daily lives or the fact that California’s population will grow.” The Chamber of Commerce has also filed a lawsuit seeking to block California’s cap-and-trade program, calling it an unconstitutional tax.

 

Auctions of carbon credits under California’s cap-and-trade program — revenues from which help fund numerous low-carbon and efficiency initiatives in the state, such as the bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles — have fallen sharply in recent months as the Chamber of Commerce’s legal challenge appeared to cast the program’s future in doubt and passage of SB 32 and AB 197 seemed to be a long-shot due to an intense Sacramento lobbying blitz by fossil fuels interests.

 

Governor Brown’s office reportedly attempted to have an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program inserted into SB 32 without success.

 

Just under one-third of the available carbon credits were sold in an August auction, raising $8 million for the state. That’s more credits than were sold in a May auction, when only 10.5 percent were sold, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but these numbers are still well below the amounts of credits purchased in the past.

 

Governor Brown said that SB 32 and AB 197 would provide leverage to reach a deal with businesses on cap-and-trade, a signature piece of Brown’s climate legacy. “With these bills, California’s charting a clear path on climate beyond 2020 and we’ll continue to work to shore up the cap-and-trade program, reduce super pollutants and direct more investment to disadvantaged communities,” Brown said in a statement when the bills were first passed by the state legislature.

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