Climate change is now. Heat records are being broken, glaciers are melting, and the seas are rising. We have reached a point where no matter what we do; we cannot avoid a very different climate future.
And the choices are quickly becoming limited. We must act now to prevent truly catastrophic consequences. But what can we do? The most powerful action is our knowledgeable vote.
California Legislative Action
A critical issue in the 2015-2017 legislative session is the need for further action on climate change, beginning with Governor Brown’s State of the State address in January 2015 and continuing with several ambitious bill proposals.
SB 350 (de León and Leno) passed and was signed by the Governor in October 2015. League members fought hard to pass SB 350, which drew some of the strongest fire of the session. The oil industry spent millions to influence business-friendly Democrats to oppose SB 350’s requirement of a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use for transportation by 2030, and in the end that provision was removed from the bill. Even with that setback, though, SB 350 is an enormously important bill requiring 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources and a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030.
SB 32 (Pavley) was passed by the Legislature in late August 2016 and is on the Governor's desk. He has said he will sign. SB 32 extends the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) beyond 2020. It increases the goal for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030, accelerating the reduction from the AB 32 goal of reaching 1990 levels by 2020. It also retains elements in AB 32 to reach the goal, such as cap and trade, incentives, and other mechanisms.
Support for SB 32:
- The League of Women Voters recognizes that climate change is real and that its effects are already being seen. This is a critical issue facing our planet that needs to be seriously addressed. California has been a leader in this area, but with impacts here in California and elsewhere ever more apparent, it is prudent and timely to chart a long-term path for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- We support SB 32 by Senator Pavley. SB 32 will set a greenhouse gas emission level of 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030. It ensures that AB 32, the landmark law to reduce California’s climate pollution, extends beyond 2020, and it codifies executive orders setting target dates and pollution reduction levels.
- We previously endorsed AB 32 (2006), the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which set targets for reducing GHG emissions to1990 levels by 2020. California is on the path to meet this goal, but further emission reductions are needed. SB 32 is consistent with Executive Order S-3-05, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, and Governor Brown's recently issued Executive Order B-30-15. However, these policies need to be placed into law.
- Polling from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) indicates that 68 percent of Californians support SB 32. California's climate and clean energy policies are boosting our economy, expanding opportunities, and improving public health. By 2025, the state's clean transportation policies will save Californians over $8 billion on health care costs due to fewer asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiac hospitalizations, and premature deaths from poor air quality.
- Because of California’s successful climate and clean energy policies, we are well on our way to meeting the Clean Power Plan targets announced by President Obama in early August 2015.
Read a letter of support and our fact sheet for SB 32.
AB 197 (E. Garcia) is a companion bill to SB 32; neither will be enacted unless both are. This bill also passed in the Legislature and is on the Governor's desk. He is expected to sign both SB 32 and AB 197. AB 197 directs the California Air Resources Board to prioritize measures that result in direct reductions in emissions from major sources. It further establishes a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies and adds two members of the legislature to the Air Resources Board as nonvoting members. It also includes use of social costs in evaluating the cost-effectiveness of emission reduction measures to better account for the full array of costs and benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
California’s Past Legislative Actions
California has taken meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Renewables Portfolio Standard Program (2002, amended in 2003-2004) requires that renewables make up 20 percent of the state’s electricity mix by 2010 and 33 percent by 2020.
Efforts were accelerated with the 2006 landmark legislation, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). This set as law that 2020 greenhouse gas emissions could not exceed 1990 levels. In 2008 the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375) required regional GHG emission reduction targets for cars and light trucks, and coordinates land use, transportation, and housing decisions to help achieve the target. In 2011, Cap and Trade set a declining cap on allowed GHG emissions. Beginning in 2013 the largest carbon emitters will be required to meet the caps or buy credits. In 2012 the Advanced Clean Cars Standard set GHG standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. And, California is on track to meet the ambitious AB 32 goals.
Climate change is a global problem, but effective action requires nothing short of a cultural change. Key priorities for action are:
- Energy efficiency standards for transportation and the electric grid
- Global price on GHG emissions to put the market economy to work and spur the growth of a clean energy economy
- Plans to adapt to climate change.
Education and Advocacy
We critically need an informed electorate to drive the political will that is essential to make the necessary changes. Resources for education and advocacy are available and growing.
A good place to start is the LWVUS Toolkit for Climate Action which provides ideas and step-by-step plans for advocacy and action.
Publish articles in your Voter, write letters to the editor and submit editorials to your local paper.
Climate Action Plans
Get involved with your local climate action plan, or initiate development of a plan. Some examples of plans are Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Benicia, San Rafael, Antioch, Los Angeles, San Diego, and the University of California. Also get involved with adaption strategies for climate change – how we will deal with the changes.
Contact your local League to learn more and become active in your area.
Priorities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Energy Efficiency Zero cost – puts money in consumers’ pockets
- Energy use: vehicles, aviation, buildings, infrastructure
- Energy transport: transmission, Unified National Smart Grid
- Energy efficiency standards (e.g. aggressive mileage standards)
Global Price on GHG Emissions Put the market economy to work
- Carbon tax, charge or fee, cap and trade (or auction), carbon offsets with strong controls
- Government cannot be exempt from GHG limits and prices
Clean Energy Economy Opportunity for jobs
- Renewable generation – solar, wind, tides, new ideas
- Standards for biofuels
- Enforceable limits, real goals (e.g. 100% clean energy in 10 years)
- Clean energy transportation infrastructure
Portfolio of Technologies Research underlies progress
- Government support – incentives (or disincentives), funding, tax credits, market creation
Our Personal Choices Resources are finite
- Build a new social norm – move away from consumerism, excess
- Use less, buy locally, reuse/recycle
A Global Solution Alone we make little difference
- Common global goal, developed countries lead the way
- Fair and sustainable global burden-sharing
- Peace reduces greenhouse gases
- Protect biodiversity; enhance climate-friendly agriculture and land-use practices
Adaptations to Climate Change Ease Consequences
- Ease consequences of climate related hardship to low income households