The devastating effects of climate change have arrived in California in the form of drought and wildfire. The summer of 2021 is already on track to be the hottest on record. Now in the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, hundreds of top climate scientists around the world warn that the climate crisis is well underway and that the earth is hotter now than it has been since the beginning of the last Ice Age, some 125,000 years ago. Wildfires are burning up and down the state, and it is clearer now than ever that swift, and bold climate action is necessary.
The California Climate Crisis Act (AB-1395) aims to codify California’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and maintaining negative greenhouse gas emissions thereafter. It develops a concrete plan for an aspiration that has previously only existed as an Executive Order. AB-1395 also sets an ambitious interim emissions reduction target of 90% by 2045 and calls on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to update its Climate Change Scoping Plan to identify and recommend measures to achieve these ambitious goals.
This Act recognizes the importance of nature-based and technology-based (e.g., carbon capture, removal, and storage) mitigation technologies and calls on the CARB to identify a variety of policies and strategies that support these climate solutions. Safe and equitable use of carbon capture, removal, and storage technologies is essential to meeting California’s climate goals and, if successful, AB-1395, which is currently awaiting action in the Senate Appropriations Committee, would be the first state law to directly support and recognize the importance of these technologies as part of the state’s portfolio of climate solutions. The California Climate Crisis Act provides an opportunity for California to formally establish an aggressive carbon neutrality goal and continue to act as a climate leader by setting the precedent for other states and nations to set their own ambitious climate goals.
Policy action, like the California Climate Crisis Act, is critical to avoiding the worst-case warming scenarios. As the International Energy Agency stated in its recent report, government action “underpins the decisions made by all other actors.” As the world’s 5th largest economy, California can lead those actors in the direction of bold climate leadership.
It is no question that California already has a record of leading on environmental policy, both on a national and global scale. California has some of the most ambitious climate policies and innovative strategies to combat climate change by putting California on the path to carbon neutrality, extending the state’s carbon market, requiring 100 percent of all retail electricity sales be from renewable and zero-carbon resources by 2045, and setting the goal of putting five million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, among others.
The climate crisis now demands more and bolder policy leadership. The California Climate Crisis Act provides the Governor and the California Assembly the opportunity to work toward meeting this demand and to further the state’s legacy of climate leadership. As Californians feel the impact of climate change closing in on us, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to act.