Pope's Climate Week visit adds imperative to the growing progress on climate


The day before the Pope landed in Washington for his first visit to America, a study was released showing that California environmental regulations decreased the risk of cancer from air pollution by 70% over a 23-year period.

As the Pope gives powerful support to Obama's climate leadership and rouses our other national and international leaders with moral clarity to act on climate change, I invite Californians to stand proud of the actions we have taken and continue to take to stabilize our climate and clean our air.

The recent air pollution success is but one small example. Just a couple weeks ago, the California Legislature passed Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon's Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act (SB 350) which, although the oil companies spent millions to revise, is monumental: Within 15 years, half of California's electricity will be from renewable sources and we will double the energy savings in our buildings.

Of course, we have been fighting climate change and building our economy for years. I work, along with many partners, on land use and transportation policy in California, and seven years ago NRDC helped pass the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, or SB 375, setting greenhouse gas reduction targets for each major region in the state. The legislation is groundbreaking in that it is the first in the nation to link transportation and land use planning with the wise use of natural resources, reducing dependence on cars, and creating walkable communities.

As of this past summer season, almost every region has adopted a plan that is projected to meet those GHG targets, and the state has invested 35% of its ongoing cap and trade revenues (this year the revenues total more than $2 billion) to the transportation and housing development needed to implement the plans and create sustainable communities.

The new Urban Solutions team at NRDC is echoing similar progress in metro areas throughout the U.S. to create strong, just, and resilient communities through energy efficiency, reduced reliance on cars, storm water and green infrastructure, and healthy-food access.

So, as the Pope reminds us of our moral obligation--as NRDC President Rhea Suh reflects on here-- and we prepare for the international climate conference in Paris this December, we can be confident that as we take necessary, bold, and unprecedented local and international action on climate change, we can also build off of the work of great scientists, leaders, and citizens who have come before us.

For now, in a brief respite from the climate work, I'll be pedaling a Velib shared bicycle down the streets of Paris this Sunday, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo has decided to free the streets of cars for a full day in recognition of the role of cities--especially their transportation systems--in climate change and public health. I can't wait.


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