Climate

BREAKING: California Governor Issues North America’s Most Aggressive Climate Goal

CREDIT: AP Photo

On Wednesday morning, four-term California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that aims to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Brown called it the most aggressive GHG target by any North American government to date.

Under Brown’s guidance, California has made ambitious steps to confront climate change, which has contributed to the state’s current water woes. But this is his boldest gambit yet. His carbon reduction target is even more aggressive than the Obama administration’s, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

According to the announcement, California’s planned reduction falls between the state’s 2020 goal of reducing GHGs to 1990 levels, and a long-term 2050 goal of reducing GHGs by 80 percent under 1990 levels. It also falls in line with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, and the more ambitious international mitigation targets — an important point as countries prepare for a major United Nations climate summit in Paris at the end of the year.

“California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe,” said Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “It is yet another reason for optimism in advance of the U.N. climate conference in Paris in December.”

The announcement comes as California is being devastated by another year of drought, and water supplies are in especially short supply. Climate models predict this will become the new normal for the state. In March, Brown and state lawmakers passed a $1 billion emergency drought relief plan, the second such effort in as many years. Brown has also said he wants California to use 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“Four consecutive years of exceptional drought has brought home the harsh reality of rising global temperatures to the communities and businesses of California,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a statement. “There can be no substitute for aggressive national targets to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions, but the decision today by Governor Brown to set a 40 percent reduction target for 2030 is an example of climate leadership that others must follow.”

The executive order also calls for more efforts to adapt to climate change, for instance by incorporating climate impacts into infrastructure plans, and into state agencies’ planning and investment decisions.

Though the executive order does not lay out specifically how the state plans to meet its climate goals, the state already has a number of climate-friendly policies in place. A recent report by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows capped greenhouse gas emissions are trending downward and California’s economy is expanding since the state’s landmark cap-and-trade program began in 2013.

In his inaugural address in January, Brown listed three main energy and climate goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years: First, to increase the amount of electricity the state derives from renewable sources from one-third to 50 percent. Second, to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent. And third, to double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

Speaking at length about the importance of these actions, Brown said that “taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels.”