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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