California Lawmakers Unveil New 2030 Legislation To Fight Climate Change

Forget AB 32, now it’s all about SB 32.  With the state well on its way to achieving our greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2020, California legislators unveiled yesterday new 2030 goals, with the one letter change in the main bill’s title understating the significance:

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers in the state unveiled a package of four bills that aim to tackle climate change in the state. One of the bills, SB 350, calls for a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use in cars and trucks, a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings, and a goal of 50 percent of state utilities’ power coming from renewable energy, all by 2030. Current California law requires utilities get 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2050. SB 350’s goals are virtually the same as the ones called for by California Gov. Jerry Brown in his inaugural address in January.

The legislation, if passed (as seems likely given the strong Democratic majorities in both houses), would have significant immediate effects. First, it would help boost the renewables market, which has been stalled of late due to its present trajectory being on course to meet or exceed the 2020 33% goals. With so many projects in the pipeline, utilities have little incentive to keep procuring unless a new target is legislated.

Second, it will help lawsuits like the one against SANDAG in San Diego, with its weak transportation plan that shows emissions increases out to 2050. The lawsuit hinges on the plan (and its environmental review documentation) not complying with the state’s 2050 goals. But those goals are only an executive order from Governor Schwarzenegger. With legislation underfoot, the challenge to the case has a much stronger chance of surviving state supreme court review.

Finally, it will provide more certainty to all the climate change efforts underway, particularly the cap-and-trade program, which would otherwise expire in 2020. With legislation, industry will know what to expect going forward, and revenue for things like affordable housing near transit, energy efficiency upgrades, and high speed rail, will be dependable for years to come.

Let’s hope the legislation can face a clear path to adoption, without getting watered down by special interest giveaways.


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