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California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday calling for the state to run entirely on clean energy by 2045. Photo: Matt Artz/Unsplash

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday calling for the state to run entirely on clean energy by 2045. Photo: Matt Artz/Unsplash


The Inertia

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday proclaiming a “100 percent clean electricity goal” for the state by 2045, reaffirming California’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Governor Brown also used the signing ceremony to issue an executive order calling for California to be completely carbon neutral by the same year.

Since the United States formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement last summer, Governor Brown has been vocal about California’s continued commitment to honor the spirit of the deal and continue to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

“This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond,” said Governor Brown. “It will not be easy. It will not be immediate. But it must be done.”

To understand the news and its implications requires understanding the new law and Brown’s executive order separately.

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Senate Bill 100, introduced by California State Senator Kevin de León of Los Angeles back in January of 2017, in the Governor’s office’s own words “puts California on the bold path to implement a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045.” It serves to advance California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, a piece of legislation that mandates the state be powered by 50 percent renewables by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030.

"“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change," said Governor Jerry Brown of SB100. Photo: gov.ca.gov

““California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change,” said Governor Jerry Brown of SB100. Photo: gov.ca.gov

The bill and a number of others were signed this week in tandem with the Global Climate Action Summit currently taking place in San Francisco.

But it’s Governor Brown’s executive order that Vox columnist David Roberts called “history’s most ambitious climate target.”

“If the world’s fifth-largest economy really targeted economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 — it would be the most significant carbon policy commitment ever. Anywhere. Period,” wrote Roberts.

Why? Because of the difference between the words “electricity” and “energy.”

Being that only 16 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions statewide are the result of the production of electricity, Governor Brown’s call for complete carbon neutrality means curbing the other 84 percent, too – including those produced by the transportation, industrial, and agricultural sectors.

According to Roberts, “This is the holy grail of climate policy.”

“With Governor Brown’s order, California establishes the most ambitious carbon neutrality commitment of any major economic jurisdiction in the world – of more than 20 countries and at least 40 cities, states, and provinces planning to go carbon neutral by mid-century or sooner,” explained the Governor’s office in a press release. “California continues to lead the world in adopting innovative policies to fight climate change.”