California needs to catch up with climate action from Biden administration
With the arrival of a new administration in Washington DC, California now has partners in the nation’s capital to accelerate the adoption of policies necessary to address the climate crisis at speed and scale. As we look forward to emerging from the pandemic, we have a generational opportunity to direct our stimulus and recovery to equitably enhance community resilience and begin the drawdown of greenhouse gases in line with the latest climate science. Will we rise to the challenge?
Since being sworn in just weeks ago, the 46th President has already returned the US to the landmark Paris Climate Accords, signed a broad array of executive orders to eliminate new oil and gas leases on Federal land, stopped construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, committed the federal government to a 100% electric fleet, and much more.
All this is being done with an eye toward creating millions of new good paying jobs in the green economy and protecting front-line communities who have historically been disproportionately impacted by climate inaction without equal access to climate solutions.
This fresh push from our nation’s highest leaders is clearly in line with Climate Safe California, the comprehensive policy platform that charts a clear path to net-negative emissions in the Golden State by 2030. This platform, crafted by The Climate Center, already has almost 900 endorsements, including members of Congress and the State Legislature, all five members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and dozens of businesses and non-profits across California, including local business leaders like Enphase and Ygrene.
This new push is necessary, because California is falling behind. Biden’s goal is to get the country to a 100% clean power grid by 2035, while California’s goal is 2045. At the same time, California faces tremendous economic and health impacts for delay in fully addressing climate change. The full cost of the fires in California over the past few years totals hundreds of billions of dollars, and we still do not know the total cost of the historic 2020 fires.
As the world’s fifth-largest economy, the time is now for us to lead the world, and accelerate meaningful climate action. Unless we quickly adopt these kinds of policies, California and the world risk ever-greater climate impacts, with devastating consequences for economic prosperity and human well-being.
Comprehensive, science-based climate policies will grow clean energy opportunities, which will benefit workers and citizens in a multitude of ways. Research from Political Economy Research Institute argues that if we invested $80 billion in climate adaptation and mitigation measures, including clean energy, it would create 725,000 jobs in California.
As Ardi Arian, President of solar company Renewable America says: “Landowners are excited to work with us to deploy massive amounts of solar and storage, but the bottleneck is with the interconnection. Utilities seem challenged these days and do not have an efficient process in place to add more dispatchable renewable energy. Often, we face delays to add solar plus storage projects. Utilities need to be better supported in growing renewables.”
“With the right policies and incentives,” Arian continues, “we can deploy community microgrids in fire-prone areas. We have the technology to free ourselves from centralized power and transmission, and build out decentralized, dispatchable, renewable electricity that allows critical facilities to stay online during power shutoffs and other critical events.”
There are a number of specific policies currently proposed in Sacramento that will accelerate this critical transition, including SB 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act, sponsored by The Climate Center and introduced by State Senator Bill Dodd (Napa).
SB99 will help local governments by providing them with technical tools and grant support to develop their own community energy resilience plans, while also prioritizing support for lower-income communities that suffer the most from air pollution and power outages. This planning will delineate and streamline thousands of investment opportunities for clean energy businesses to invest in, creating jobs and resiliency for communities across the state.
Kurt Johnson, Clean Energy Manager for the Climate Center, explains that “the failings of our archaic electrical system, which has ignited many of our recent wildfires, are causing homeowners, businesses, hospitals, fire stations, and others to buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators– increasing emissions that drive climate change and making fires worse.”
“Instead,” Johnson says, “we need bold policies to help local governments and stakeholders develop clean energy resilience plans that address climate change, while prioritizing our most vulnerable communities.”
Senator Dodd puts it this way: “Ensuring continuous power should not come at the expense of our environment. With adequate planning, clean energy alternatives can power the grid, providing a more reliable and sustainable source of electricity for our state.”
As we move into a new era where science is again at the forefront, and we no longer have to do battle with climate deniers in the White House, let us not miss this fleeting window of opportunity. There is so much more to be done, and the Golden State can lead on climate once again. Let’s work together to rebuild a stronger, more equitable, and more resilient economy that offers opportunities for this and future generations to live in a climate-safe California.