To anyone paying attention, it’s clear that there are much better, cleaner ways for us to live. Electric cars are a real thing, their technology free for those auto manufacturers that would use it. Tide powered electricity generators, powerful enough to run cities. Wind power, solar power–it’s all there for the taking. The difficult thing, though, is getting it to a consumer that’s so entrenched with fossil fuels. We’re a carbon-based economy, and billions upon billions are made on the back of an industry that is rapidly destroying the planet. But more and more, the people who need to are sitting up and making changes. Most recently, it was California Governor Jerry Brown. He just signed two bills that will turn the Golden State into”a large and powerful testing ground for such initiatives.” Because someone’s got to try something.
It wasn’t an easy bid for Gov. Brown, though. As anyone would when proposing something that has the potential to harm the economy, he faced a lot of opposition. After more than a year of trying, he signed the bills on Thursday in a public park built on top of a defunct oil field–a powerful bit of symbolism. It’s ten acres of greenery perched on a hilltop just outside downtown Los Angeles’s concrete jungle, and it’s the only public park built in the area in over 100 years. “What we are doing is far-sighted and far-reaching,” Gov. Brown said. “I hope it sends a message across the country.”
The bills make sweeping expansions to California’s existing plans to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, a very similar proposal didn’t even make it out of Legislature after industry leaders freaked out about the potential to harm the economy. And it’s not a misguided fear–California’s wallet does, in large part, depend on big oil. But depending on who you’re talking to, legislations like these do two totally different things. “Emissions have gone down, and the economy has gone up,” said Senator Fran Pavely, a Democrat who applauded the 2006 legislation that the most recent ones build on.
The plan, in very simple terms, is to increase renewable energy, put a whole bunch more electric cars on the road, and curb emissions from most industries.
Republican Jean Fuller, though, has a different view. She’s from Kern County, where oil is king. “Climate-change policies already passed by the majority party have had a drastic and negative impact on Kern County,” she said, “costing us hundreds of energy jobs and causing our local economy to suffer.”
The first law the governor signed is an aggressive reduction is greenhouse gas emissions: 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The 2006 bill, signed by Arnie, required emissions to be at 1990 levels by 2020, and according to officials, we’re on track for that to be a success.
“It is the most ambitious emission-reduction target in the nation and one of the most ambitious in the world…and sets an important example for other states and nations,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The second bill Governor Brown signed “increases legislative oversight of the California Air Resources Board” according to the Wall Street Journal. Those are the people who actually do the dirty work when it comes to putting California’s climate programs into effect.
After the bills were passed, the Governor took the podium to speak to the doubters. “[The measures] “are a powerful restructuring of the California economy going forward,” he said. He went on to say that the evidence that climate change bills caused job losses was “dubious, if it exists at all.”
“This is a real commitment, backed up by real power,” he finished. “The effort to de-carbonize our economy, in California and throughout the world, is extremely difficult and it is a tall hill that we are climbing.”