Following our annual pre-Thanksgiving tradition, my husband and I gathered with friends around a long wooden table on Sunday night to eat homemade pies and share what we’re thankful for this year. Some said family, others their health or jobs.
While I shared those sentiments, my thoughts quickly turned to gratitude for California’s leadership in addressing climate change. The strong voices and actions of our policymakers are a welcome contrast to the uncertainty surrounding climate action under a Trump administration.
Standing Up for Climate Action
Perhaps now more than ever, California’s ability to demonstrate that a low carbon and climate resilient economy is achievable, and that it can spur economic growth and benefit everyone, is critical. That’s why I’m thankful that the state’s leadership has voiced its continued commitment to this vision in recent weeks.
- Last Friday, Governor Jerry Brown issued a statement with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark that reaffirmed their resolve to stand with the international community and take “bold action to achieve the targets set in the Paris agreement.”
- In a joint statement the day after the election, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon reassured Californians that “California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.”
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
I’m even more thankful that earlier this year, California made history by adopting the most ambitious heat-trapping emissions targets in North America. This provides much needed certainty for the state’s climate program.
In a feat that seemed nearly impossible until it was accomplished, SB 32 (Pavley) and a companion bill, AB 197 (E. Garcia), became law. Together, they establish an ambitious emissions reduction goal for 2030 of 40 percent below 1990 levels, and increase legislative oversight for the state’s climate programs while underscoring that the policies must help the communities most affected by climate change and air pollution.
Of course, setting the targets is only the first step. We have a lot of work to do to achieve the state’s 2030 target and 2050 target of 80 percent below 1990 levels, and to do it in a way that can benefit all Californians.
My UCS colleagues and I are closely following development of the state’s roadmap to 2030, the Scoping Plan 2030 Update, to ensure it represents the most robust set of policies possible. The California Air Resources Board will release a discussion draft of the plan later this month, so stay tuned for more details.
At the same time, we also need to be thinking about how climate change will affect the infrastructure investments we make to meet the state’s targets, like updating our energy grid, and other key infrastructure investments (roads, bridges, water systems, etc.) that provide important public services and safety. The billions of dollars we spend each year on infrastructure should ensure that it’s built to last in the facing of a changing climate.
I’m thankful that California reasserted its continued leadership on this issue this year:
- Governor Brown signed a UCS-sponsored bill into law, AB 2800 (Quirk), to help engineer our infrastructure – particularly bridges, roads, water systems, and buildings – to better withstand the impacts of climate change.
- The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is developing guidance for state agencies to incorporate climate impacts into planning and investment decisions, with a special focus on infrastructure and protecting the state’s most vulnerable populations. I represent UCS on the Technical Advisory Group for this effort. The guidance document should be released next month.
As with the targets, there is a lot more work still to be done. Yet these and other related efforts here in California can provide valuable insights for any major infrastructure investments by the Trump administration.
Looking To Next Thanksgiving
I count myself among the many people concerned with the health of the planet that are troubled by President-elect Trump’s statements on climate change. But I have hope that, as a businessman, he will look at California as a model for how global warming pollution can be reduced and climate resilience increased while growing a vibrant economy.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but for today, I will choose gratitude. And then I’ll roll up my sleeves and get back to work alongside the millions of people advancing solutions to climate change worldwide, so that next year at this time, I’ll have even more reasons to be thankful.
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