by Kate Gordon, via Center for the Next Generation
Lately I’ve been thinking about climate and energy work as a kind of two-cylinder engine. One cylinder is firing away on energy, working to bring down the cost of alternative energy and fuels and bring them to scale. The other is working on the bigger problem of what, exactly, we’re going to do to stop the climate crisis that’s set to crash down on us in just 16 years (according to Bill McKibben) or as little as 50 months (according to last week’s letter in the Guardian).
This past week, it seems like both cylinders were in operation. Some news from the energy side: nationwide, the 1 millionth home was retrofitted under the Weatherization Assistance Program, which received a huge boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In California alone, state energy efficiency programs administered by the California Public Utilities Commission saved enough energy to power over 600,000 homes – enough, as my friends at NRDC write, to save the state from building two new power plants. And last Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed 19 bills into law that will help the state stay at the forefront of the advanced energy economy. These range from a measure to help streamline the permitting process for installing rooftop solar systems – a huge potential market for our sunny state – to one opening the door to a new biogas market in the state.
The two AB32-related bills we’ve been tracking in past weeks, AB1532 and SB535, were also signed by the Governor. I won’t go into detail on these again (see this past Digest if you’re hungry for more), but the upshot is that we now have a basic framework for how revenues from the state’s cap and trade program will be spent after the Nov. 14 auction – and we know a big chunk of them will be spent on moving renewable and efficient energy programs forward throughout the state, and especially in disadvantaged communities.
And on the climate side, the world seems to be waking up to the reality of the crisis facing us. Earlier this month, Australia joined the European Union’s carbon trading market. Just today, China and the E.U. announced their own climate deal, which includes China’s commitment to designing a carbon market. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, these three regions – the E.U., China, and Australia – account for a staggering 41 percent of global carbon emissions. That’s one big carbon market – and it’s one California is exploring entering as well, as we begin discussions with Australia about potentially linking up those two markets as well, which would of course lead to a link with the E.U. and China too.
Seems like both cylinders of that climate/energy engine are finally firing, at least in California and across the ocean. Isn’t it about time this country jumped on board?
Kate Gordon is Director of the Advanced Energy and Sustainability Program at the Center for the Next Generation. This piece was cross-posted from the AB32 Digest, the Center for the Next Generation’s weekly roundup of news on California’s landmark climate change law. To read or subscribe to the AB32 Digest here.