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Photo of Frances Beinecke

Wish They All Could Be California

One state leads as the nation finally confronts climate change.

This winter I spent nearly two months living in California. In general, I travel a great deal, usually trying to persuade government and business leaders that America must do more to curb global warming, and do it right away. But California was one of the most gratifying of all my destinations, because this state really gets it. It has already put innovative and pragmatic solutions in place, making it the nation's showcase for environmental leadership. Now others are catching on.

California recently passed the country's most ambitious law limiting global warming pollution. While other cities and regions are beginning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, California's law is the first to address every major source of global warming. But that's only part of the story, as I discovered in numerous conversations up and down the state. One example: In Silicon Valley I spoke with venture capitalists eagerly investing in green technologies, including better-performing components of hybrid cars and more powerful solar panels. California is proving that when innovation and concern for the environment are matched by visionary, bipartisan leadership, inventive ideas are unleashed, markets open up, jobs are created, and people experience a noticeably healthier quality of life.

But what about the rest of us? Luckily, others are taking action as well. Eight northeastern states have created a regional initiative to limit global warming pollution from power plants; 10 states have adopted legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars -- another solution first enacted by California. In January, I went to Washington, D.C., and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with CEOs from GE, Alcoa, DuPont, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, and several other major corporations. We announced the creation of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a joint call for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. When corporate giants like these -- with a combined net worth of $750 billion -- line up with environmentalists to ask for emission reductions, you know the reality of global warming is hitting home.

And even though the White House continues to drag its feet, the 110th Congress is kicking into gear. It recently announced its commitment to create a clean energy future for America. Numerous energy and climate bills have already been introduced by the 110th Congress. The bills that ultimately pass must offer a rigorous plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. NRDC supports slashing global warming pollution by 25 percent by the year 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. California has already enacted similar targets. Now we must press our leaders to confront climate change head-on. Our message to Congress and the whole nation is: This can be done.

Frances Beinecke

Inside NRDC
The View from NRDC

"LOOK AT CALIFORNIA. By setting steadily higher standards for the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances -- and creating incentives for utilities to work with consumers to use less power -- California has held its per-capita electricity use constant for 30 years, while the rest of the nation has seen per-capita electricity use increase by nearly 50 percent, according to [NRDC]."
-- From Thomas Friedman's column "Morning in the Garden," New York Times, January 17, 2007

"ACCORDING TO A NEW REPORT by the advocacy group [NRDC], the U.S. airline industry discards enough aluminum cans each year to build 58 Boeing 747 airplanes.... 'Here is a clear opportunity for cost competitiveness and environmental objectives to marry,' [NRDC's Allen] Hershkowitz said."
-- From "Recycling at Airports Has Yet to Take Off," Washington Post, December 14, 2006

" 'THEY MAY SEE SOME HAND- writing on the wall,' said David Doniger, climate center policy director for [NRDC]. '[Bush administration officials] don't want to look like deniers right now. They've got enough problems. "
-- "From Bush's Climate Remarks Weighed for Policy Shift," Washington Post, January 27, 2007

"THE EXEMPTION FROM THE marine mammal law, [NRDC's Joel] Reynolds said, 'is a blatant admission by the U.S. Navy that its current operations violate protective standards for whales, dolphins and other marine life. It's not that the Navy cannot comply with the law. It's that the Navy chooses not to.' "
-- From "Navy Gets 2-Year Exemption to Sonar Limits," Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2007

Photo: Erin Patrice O'Brien

OnEarth. Spring 2007
Copyright 2007 by the Natural Resources Defense Council