By Kendra Schultz and Alhad Dighe
Moving forward to meet the state’s climate and clean energy goals cannot be achieved without visionary leadership, big ideas, and some measure of risk. California lawmakers set the state on a bold path when they passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 AB 32, landmark legislation that established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. AB 32 elevated California as a global climate leader, and despite some resistance and plenty of naysayers, the state triumphantly announced recently that it had achieved this goal in 2016 just 10 years following the passage of AB 32, and four years ahead of the 2020 timeline.
This decade of climate action brought economic growth, improved air quality, and clean energy innovation across the state. California’s GHG emissions peaked in 2004, but have declined 13 percent since the signing of AB 32 in 2006, the equivalent of removing 12 million cars from the road. During this same period, the state’s gross domestic product rose 26 percent, propelling the state’s economy to the fifth largest in the world.
The Leadership Group was the first trade association to support AB 32, understanding that economic vitality and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the suite of policies established in conjunction with AB 32 helped provide the market certainty to fuel a burgeoning clean energy economy in the state, which has added more than half a million clean energy jobs since 2006. The cap-and-trade program, renewable portfolio standard, energy efficiency measures, and the low carbon fuel standard helped spur the clean energy innovation that has become synonymous with California. The state’s advanced energy economy is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, with the number solar jobs growing 14 percent in 2017 and another 13 percent expected by the end of this year.
While this progress should be lauded, significant challenges lie ahead for the state’s ambitious climate agenda. California must now shift its attention to the more challenging goal of reducing GHG emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This goal, established in 2016, helped pave the way for last year’s extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program through 2030.
To help support the state’s goals, the Leadership Group, which advocated for the cap-and-trade extension, is now engaging on the rulemaking process for the program’s next phase. Leadership Group attention is also focused on the transportation sector, the greatest single contributor of GHG emissions in the state at 41 percent, and the only sector to experience a recent uptick in emissions as people drove longer distances, waited in more traffic, and consumed more fossil fuels. Zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure, transit-oriented development, and other clean transportation innovation and policies provide the biggest opportunity for the state to maintain its climate leadership and economic prosperity.
The Leadership Group supports the efforts of businesses and legislators that are working towards a cleaner, more prosperous California, and we look forward to all the additional benefits from our continued work to lead the world to a clean energy and clean air future.