California: America’s Climate Leader

The Golden State is stepping up its game to set the standard for powering our nation through 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
One of the many clean energy projects in California, this one in Kern County
Credit: Allan Der/Flickr

The Golden State is stepping up its game to set the standard for powering our nation through 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

California is about to make history by leading the way to the future.

State lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a bill calling for all of California’s electricity—100 percent of it—to come from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2045. In our lifetime, in other words, our country’s largest statewide economy would be powered without fossil fuels and the dangerous pollution they emit.

That’s setting the standard—and setting the pace.

California’s economy will kick out $2.7 trillion worth of goods and services this year, 14.1 percent of the U.S. total. If the state were a country, it would be roughly tied with the United Kingdom for the fifth-largest economy in the world, just ahead of France.

Visionary leadership, an unbridled belief in innovation, and an insistence on seizing opportunity, not just waiting for it, are fundamental to the California success story. The state has a chance to build on that record by passing this clean electricity bill, SB 100. Authored by  Kevin de León, president of the California state Senate, SB 100 also calls for an ambitious near-term target of 60 percent renewable electricity by 2030. And it would mandate 50 percent renewable electricity by 2026, four years sooner than the existing target.

Already on track to get more than a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, California is a global leader in the transition to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. That leadership is paying off for Californians, more than half a million of whom now work to help us to become more efficient so we do more with less waste in our cars, homes, and workplaces; to get more clean power from the wind and sun; and to build the electricity transmission grid of tomorrow.

That kind of work is going to attract some $7 trillion in global investment over the next two decades or so. California has positioned its workers to thrive in that booming global clean energy market—like no other workers anywhere. And the state is leading the fight to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change, by shedding its reliance on the dirty fossil fuels that are driving this global scourge.

Climate change is taking a mounting and unsustainable toll on our people—through rising seas that threaten our coastal communities, mass extinctions, spreading deserts, and dying coral. It’s taking a toll through hurricanes, like Harvey and Irma, that are made worse as they linger over oceans heated by global warming and become more destructive due to rising sea levels. And it’s taking a toll through wildfires raging across Northwest forests that have turned to kindling in weather that is increasingly warm and dry.

If ever the nation needed climate and clean energy leadership, it is now. And yet, in Washington, we have President Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” and is doing everything he can to turn back from the promise of clean energy, retreat from the economic opportunity of our lifetime, and condemn our children to a world of worsening climate chaos. Another bill pending in the California legislature, SB49, would protect the state from Washington backsliding on a host of environmental provisions.

Now, more than ever, we need California to lead, to show the path to more good-paying clean energy jobs, to innovation that makes us more efficient, and to leaving our children a livable world. That future is closer than it seems. The clean electricity bill will move us closer still.

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