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California evolves its climate leadership by increasing its options

September 7, 2022 Work Area: Advanced Nuclear, Carbon Capture

California has long been a climate and clean energy leader. As the world’s 5th largest economy with a robust energy and technology sector – coupled with a strong commitment to emissions reductions — the Golden State has led the development and deployment of clean energy technologies and pollution reduction. Its net-zero emissions by 2045 goal is one of the most ambitious among U.S. states and it often sets policies and regulations that are more stringent than federal standards.  

California also bears the brunt of climate change’s worst impacts. It routinely suffers from extreme droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves – all of which have become more frequent and more intense in a warming world. These disasters wreak havoc on the state’s electricity grid, exposing it to dangerous and costly blackouts. In fact, California has struggled to make good on its commitment to emissions reductions while meeting the energy demands of a thriving economy, in no small part due to the challenges of building clean energy infrastructure at the scale and pace required.  

That’s why the host of climate and energy measures passed by the California legislature last week are such a big deal. While bold action is not new for California, the focus of these recent policies on increasing clean energy options and accelerating new projects is. The state’s environmental progress has historically relied on closing down facilities  that pollute or are thought to have the potential to do so. Unfortunately, this approach has generally failed to recognize the need to build the clean projects to take their place, creating the types of costs and reliability challenges the state now finds itself confronting. 

No longer. California just took a major step forward — pivoting to a more pragmatic approach that advances a broad suite of critical solutions while also doubling down on its commitments by passing bills to: 

  • Adopt a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target – from 40% to 55% below the 1990 level. 
  • Set a clean electricity target of 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040. 
  • Require setbacks between oil and gas production sites and residential neighborhoods and other sensitive areas. 

These measures will provide the policy certainty and financial support necessary for developers to build the clean energy future California deserves—one that puts its ambitious climate goals within reach, shores up supplies of reliable carbon-free energy, avoids grid blackout, and increases affordability for all. Governor Newsom and the California legislature should be commended for their broad support for a diverse array of solutions, and CATF looks forward to supporting Californians as they work to deploy these technologies and the critical infrastructure they require.   

We also look forward to pushing for this kind of progress across the U.S. and around the world. The world is changing fast and our approach to climate and clean energy must evolve with it. May California continue down this new pragmatic path, and may its leadership inspire others to commit to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in tandem with broadening the suite of sensible climate solutions they pursue.  

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