California Road Map for Clean Air and Livable Earth

We are seeing the effects of climate change everywhere — extreme weather, unprecedented sea level rising, increased air pollution, mudslides, wildfires, and loss of animal habitat, to name just a few. And the last two years have been the two hottest on record.

While we may have a president in the White House who doesn’t believe in climate change, an EPA Administrator who is dead set on killing the EPA, and an Interior Secretary who doesn’t care about our public lands, California can still stand up to President Trump and his
Administration, and lead the way.

California must continue to push a progressive vision for tackling climate change: we are building infrastructure to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we have introduced groundbreaking policies to reduce pollution from industries and vehicles, and California remains the global center of electric vehicle and renewable energy innovation.

Despite these impressive efforts, we can and must do more to protect this world for future generations. As governor, I will ensure that California continues to take bold action to clean our air, slow climate change, and green our economy. We must set bold new clean energy goals. We must focus our attention and resources on cleaning up communities that have been marginalized in this debate for decades. And we must find the resources to make these goals a reality.

 

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California remains home to some of the worst air pollution in the country, with more than 90 percent of our residents living in areas where they are exposed to unhealthy air. Two-thirds of conventional criteria pollutants that cause ground-level pollution in the state come from the transportation sector, and it’s this sector that produces more than a third of the greenhouse gas pollution in California.

Cleaning up the transportation sector would go a long way toward solving California’s air pollution challenges. In 2012, Governor Brown issued an executive order setting a goal of bringing 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles onto California’s roads by 2025. This should be considered just the first step in eliminating all fossil-fuel cars sold in California.

Zero-emission vehicle technology is already advancing by leaps and bounds, far faster than anticipated. If California wants to take itself off the list of worst air polluters in the United States, no new fossil-fuel cars should be sold in the state by 2035. If technological innovation again beats forecasts, we should move that date up. We can provide healthier air and a brighter future for our children with California-based innovation.

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California has a long history of setting and meeting ambitious clean energy goals. As part of the state’s efforts to curb climate change, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act — signed into law in 2015 — calls for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable resources by 2030. Today, California is exceeding those interim goals and is already producing 29 percent of its energy from renewables. Given what’s at stake and the terrific work that’s already been done, we need to double down on our commitment to fight climate change and improve air quality.

The strongest single step we can take as a state is to set a bold, new standard for our energy usage. California should utilize 100 percent renewable and carbon-free energy by 2045. While powering the most populous and prosperous state in the country on 100 percent renewables is ambitious, it’s also achievable. The technology exists and the costs are coming down.

In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must keep pushing to transition our economy to one that is powered by clean, green energy. When investing in this transition, we must ensure that that we are giving due consideration to underserved communities where we can make the biggest impact.

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Buildings are the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases in California. If we are going to tackle climate change head on, then greening our building stock is crucial. This not only makes environmental sense, but it also makes financial sense. Green buildings reduce operating costs and save money over time. It’s also been shown that there is no significant difference in average building costs for green buildings compared to non-green buildings.

While the state and cities across California have enacted strong energy efficiency measures, more still needs to be done. The best way to leap forward is to lead by example. As governor, I’ll push to immediately make all new state building construction carbon neutral. This means combining highly efficient buildings with renewable on-site or procured power. And by 2030, all legacy state buildings should be retrofitted to be carbon neutral.

It’s imperative that we slash greenhouse gases if we are going to slow the effects of climate change; and what better place to show how serious our state government is than by starting with our own buildings.

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People who live and work in California’s most polluted environments are more commonly communities of color. These vulnerable communities are disproportionately burdened with the facilities that wealthier, white neighborhoods reject, such as factories, landfills and diesel bus garages, because of the pollutants they cause. As a result, these communities often suffer from higher rates of asthma and other debilitating illnesses.

That’s why I stood with Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and voted against building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Cabrillo Port, off the coast of Oxnard, as a State Lands Commissioner. We can’t continue to punish communities of color with detrimental environment votes.

In the past, lobbyists have directed investments away from disadvantaged communities, but those practices must end. California must prioritize the projects that will bring real improvements to those communities that need it the most, and we need to do it now.

While working to improve our state’s air quality, we must ensure that local communities are always part of the decision-making process. We need to offer meaningful opportunities for input on environmental justice issues and offer real remedies to concerns. We should be working towards cleaner air and a more livable earth for ALL communities, no matter their zip code.

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Implementing sweeping measures to halt climate change sounds great, but we need to be able to pay for it all. The Paris Agreement — which is being enacted by every nation in the world other than the United States — is expected to cost $93 trillion to replace infrastructure powered by fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives. Here in California, we need $853 billion in public funds over the next 10 years just for transportation, water, and K-12 school construction. These are staggering price tags, and our next governor must have the knowledge and fiscal experience to find the funding to make these critical investments.

I have been our state’s leading voice for “green bonds” to finance our transition to a green economy. A green bond is a form of public or private-sector debt used to finance climate-friendly and environmental projects — including renewable energy, energy efficient products, clean transportation, reforestation, water management, pollution control, seawall construction, and so much more. What’s more is that green bonds have a ready-made investor base of individuals attracted to environmentally friendly products.

The need for action is urgent. We should accelerate the maturation of the U.S. green bond market to unleash a torrent of new, affordable capital to finance the conversion from a fossil-fuel based economy and infrastructure to cleaner alternatives.

California has a proud history of being a grand laboratory that has produced environmental policies that have gone on to be adopted by countries around the world. Now more than ever, California must take swift, bold action to clean our air, slow climate change and green our economy.