What Just Happened? California Passes Major Climate Bills

Alex Jackson, Ann Notthoff, and Victoria Rome, NRDC

Less than a month after critical climate legislation was declared dead by Capitol insiders, oil lobbyists, and some California legislators, today we celebrate passage of two bills that together enact the most aggressive emissions targets in North America and require California – the world’s sixth-largest economy – to reduce carbon pollution to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

AB 197 by Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and SB 32 by Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) — which both passed their final legislative hurdles yesterday – are on their way to Governor Jerry Brown, who has committed to signing both into law. Not only will this pollution-cutting legislation set national and international landmarks, the bills also include a renewed emphasis on equity, transparency, and accountability.

They said it couldn’t be done

Our team of NRDC experts  along with our friends in clean energy companies, environmental justice, housing, and public health groups  were told that the oil industry lobby was too strong and its influence in Sacramento could not be overcome. We were told to wait until next year to try to extend the emissions limits of California’s groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) beyond 2020. We were told that environmentalists and our allies couldn’t pull it off.  

But we did.  And in the end, both bills passed with bipartisan support.

With leadership from Senate President pro Tem Kevin De León, Senator Pavley, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Jimmy Gomez – and the well-crafted response to concerns around transparency, equity, and legislative oversight of state agencies charged with implementation -- our leaders in Sacramento are showing the world that California can be “progressive and prosperous at the same time.”

They were supported by polls that showed overwhelming support for climate action amid the realities of terrible smog in southern California, a historic drought, and dangerous wildfires – all products of our worsening climate change.

While we are celebrating the votes that show the rest of the nation and the world that California will not give up on trying to stave off the worst effects of climate change, there is more work to do in California’s capitol in the coming days, as several other important clean air bills await passage. They include AB 1550 (to increase investment of climate revenues in disadvantaged communities), SB 1383 (to curb super pollutants) and SB 1387 (to add environmental justice representatives to the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board.) And, we will continue to work in the coming years with a new crop of environmental heroes in Sacramento to advance climate policy and ensure that all Californians reap the benefits of clean energy.  

NRDC California Policy Advocate Linda Escalante speaks with Univision