SANTA ROSA, CA, April 20, 2021 – In the leadup to Earth Day on April 22 and President Joe Biden’s Climate Summit on April 22-23, a new report authored by California’s leading experts in climate science, energy, and equity says the state must take more aggressive actions to respond to and lead the climate fight.
Coming from California’s premiere universities and the private sector, the authors note climate change is happening faster and more intensely than scientists thought when California adopted its most significant climate policies. The planet will reach a dangerous level of climate change (an average temperature increase of 2.7℉) as early as 2027 – nearly two decades earlier than initially projected. California’s monumental climate challenges – hotter summers, a shorter rain season, toxic air quality, and wildfires causing hundreds of billions in damages – will grow in intensity by nearly 50 percent over the next ten years.
In order to urgently address the intensifying climate crisis, the report urges California to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits by 2030, 15 years ahead of the state’s commitment to do so by 2045. The report also urges California to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, doubling the state’s commitment of 40 percent.
The knowledge and technology to meet the proposed targets already exists, which can bend California’s warming curve in ten years and eliminate 75 percent of the state’s air pollution. Prospects cited in the report include phasing out gas-powered vehicles, incentives rewarding clean energy generation and jobs in disadvantaged communities, community choice clean energy expansion, banning food waste from landfills, and using working lands and landscapes to capture carbon.
“We hope this report is a wakeup call for California’s leaders. Other governments are appropriately rising to the climate challenge with more aggressive action. California must pull its weight and lead once again,” said Daniel Kammen, Chair of the Energy Resources Group, and Professor in Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and lead author of the report. “We need a scientifically credible response to the threats we face. By reclaiming a leadership role on climate and building on its legacy of clean technology innovation, California can prosper while propelling the world towards a safe, healthy future for all.”
“California’s climate policies must show working people and disadvantaged communities that they won’t be left behind. We need to invest in them to ensure they continue being an essential part of the fabric of California,” said Teenie Matlock, Professor of Cognitive Science and McClatchy Chair in Communications at UC Merced and a report co-author. “Clean energy investments create twice as many jobs compared to fossil fuels. They are a powerful tool to transition workers from polluting industries while improving air quality.”
Moving forward, the report urges California’s leaders to be guided by three principles: adopt policies that align with the latest climate science, ensure a just transition for workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries, and prioritize clean energy investments in low-income communities and communities of color.
Sponsored by The Climate Center, this report has bolstered the rallying cry behind the Center’s growing Climate-Safe California campaign. Composed of more than 1,000 elected officials, business leaders, academics, organizations, and community members, Climate-Safe California is urging state leaders to take actions outlined in the report by 2030.
“We must imagine a bright, hopeful, equitable future and then make it a reality for our families and communities. We can and must do this by enacting bold, equitable climate policies today,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “A growing movement of Californians is coming together to demand their leaders accelerate climate action and step up to retake California’s global climate leadership. We are the natural leader in this fight and must live up to that potential.”
“California always set the standard for climate leadership but the natural world is demanding even more and it’s demanding it now,” said Tom Steyer, Founder of NextGen Policy and a report co-author. “We need to be bolder and faster to create a clean energy economy and a healthy, just society. As Californians, we know how to lead, to innovate. Now we have to do just that.”
“California prides itself on being an incubator for diversity and inclusion. Equitably confronting climate change is the ultimate test of these values,” said David Pellow, Professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara and a report co-author. “Those of us who make a living through a trade on a construction site or in the fields are exposed to the elements, placing them at great risk during this time of a rapidly changing climate. We owe it to our neighbors, friends, and relatives to ensure that they are protected when they are working to provide for their families
Historically, the United States and the world looked to California for climate leadership but leaders elsewhere are outpacing California. Rhode Island committed to 100 percent renewable energy use by 2030. The City of Los Angeles has a framework to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. President Biden aims for the United States to transition to clean energy by 2035. The United Kingdom will reduce greenhouse gasses 86 percent below 1990 levels and ban gas-powered vehicles by 2030. Finland committed to net-zero emissions by 2035.