Already known as a leader in the fight against climate change, California has doubled down on its emissions-cutting efforts with a law aimed at “forcing one of the world’s largest economies to squeeze into a dramatically smaller carbon footprint,” the Los Angeles Times reported last week. The new legislation, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday, goes beyond the state’s previous goal of bringing emissions down to 1990 levels by the end of this decade and calls instead for hitting the “much more ambitious target” of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. One expert quoted in the Times story, James Sweeney of Stanford University, said the new law will require Californians to make changes “about three times as fast as we’ve done so far.” He added that while he hopes the state meets the new goal, he questions whether it actually will.
Brown, for his part, sounded ready for a fight at Thursday’s ceremony. “I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown proclaimed before signing the bill. He called out Republicans in Congress who doubt the effects of climate change even while Californians and others suffer droughts, fires, and floods. “I don’t want to be partisan,” he said, “but these guys deny science.” According to the Times, Brown also hopes the new law will give him leverage to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, which the new legislation doesn’t directly cover. A major weapon in the state’s climate-change fight, the program charges companies for emissions but has begun to suffer dwindling revenue and also faces legal challenges.
Readers looking for more on California’s climate-change efforts should head for the Bulletin’s special issue on the topic, which features, among other things, an interview with Governor Brown and an article examining how well the California model might work elsewhere in the country.