PublicationJournal Article Accelerating the timeline for climate action in California

March 15, 2021
Publication Type:
Journal Article

The cli­mate emer­gency increas­ing­ly threat­ens our com­mu­ni­ties, ecosys­tems, food pro­duc­tion, health, and econ­o­my. It dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impacts low­er income com­mu­ni­ties, com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, and the elder­ly. Assess­ments since the 2018 IPCC 1.5 Cel­sius report show that cur­rent nation­al and sub-nation­al com­mit­ments and actions are insuf­fi­cient. For­tu­nate­ly, a suite of solu­tions exists now to mit­i­gate the cli­mate cri­sis if we ini­ti­ate and sus­tain actions today. Cal­i­for­nia, which has a strong set of cur­rent tar­gets in place and is home to clean ener­gy and high tech­nol­o­gy inno­va­tion, has fall­en behind in its cli­mate ambi­tion com­pared to a num­ber of major gov­ern­ments. Cal­i­for­nia, a cat­a­lyst for cli­mate action glob­al­ly, can and should ramp up its lead­er­ship by align­ing its cli­mate goals with the most recent sci­ence, coor­di­nat­ing actions to make 2030 a point of sig­nif­i­cant accom­plish­ment. This entails dra­mat­i­cal­ly accel­er­at­ing its car­bon neu­tral­i­ty and net-neg­a­tive emis­sions goal from 2045 to 2030, includ­ing advanc­ing clean ener­gy and clean trans­porta­tion stan­dards, and accel­er­at­ing nature-based solu­tions on nat­ur­al and work­ing lands. It also means chang­ing its cur­rent green­house gas reduc­tion goals both in the per­cent­age and the tim­ing: cut­ting emis­sions by 80 per­cent (instead of 40 per­cent) below 1990 lev­els much clos­er to 2030 than 2050. These actions will enable Cal­i­for­nia to save lives, ben­e­fit under­served and front­line com­mu­ni­ties, and save tril­lions of dol­lars. This reded­i­ca­tion takes heed of the lat­est sci­ence, accel­er­at­ing equi­table, job-cre­at­ing cli­mate poli­cies. While there are sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges to achiev­ing these goals, Cal­i­for­nia can estab­lish pol­i­cy now that will unleash inno­va­tion and chan­nel mar­ket forces, as has hap­pened with solar, and cat­alyze pos­i­tive upward-scal­ing tip­ping points for accel­er­at­ed glob­al cli­mate action.

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