California Gov. Brown Proposes Ambitious New Climate Policy Goals

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By Carolyn Whetzel

Jan. 5 – California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Jan. 5 proposed increasing the state's current 33 percent renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent over the next 15 years and, over the same period, cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks in half, making heating fuels cleaner and doubling the efficiency of existing buildings.

Brown announced the ambitious climate policy goals in the inaugural address/state of the state message he delivered after being sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term.

In the 30-minute message, Brown outlined multiple challenges the state faces over the next four-years, including long-term financial liabilities, social programs, infrastructure (water, roads, highways and bridges) and climate change.

“Governor Brown's relentless commitment to tackle climate change couldn't be more important or timely,” said Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for Environmental Defense Fund. “The world is moving toward an inflection point on climate action and Governor Brown is showing how California innovation and ingenuity will deliver deep reductions in pollution from electricity, transportation fuels, and working lands while growing the state's economy for decades to come.”

California is on track to meeting its 2020 goal of deriving one-third of its electricity from renewable sources, he said. The state also is set to achieve the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (A.B. 32) target of limiting greenhouse gases to 431 million tons by 2020, Brown said.

Existing Efforts Not Enough

The governor said that while the state's existing climate, energy efficiency and clean cars policies are impressive, “they are not enough” to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2015, as recommended by the majority of the world's scientists. “If we have any chance at all of achieving that, California, as it does in many areas, must show the way,” he said. “We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being. So far, we have been able to do that.’’

Methane, black carbon and other potent greenhouse gases also must be reduced, he said. Plus, the state “must manage farm and rangelands, forest and wetlands so they can store carbon,” Brown said.

“All of this is a very tall order,” he said. “It means that we continue transform our electrical grid, our transportation systems and even our communities.”

Brown said he envisions “a wide range of initiatives” are necessary to achieve the goals, including “more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

“It will require enormous innovation, research and investment,” Brown said. “And we will needed active collaboration at every stage with our scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, businesses and officials at all levels.”

Cutting Vehicle Petroleum Use

Cars and trucks account for nearly half of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board. Cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks by 2030 would reduce emissions of ozone-forming pollutants by 80 percent and reduce emissions of diesel particulate matter, linked to cancer, by 95 percent, the agency said in a fact sheet it released following Brown's address.

Existing policies will cut petroleum use in the vehicles by more than 30 percent by 2030, the CARB said. The path to a 50 percent reduction would involve reducing vehicle-miles travelled to 4 percent; increasing on-road fuel efficiency of cars to 35 miles per gallon and heavy-duty trucks to about seven miles per gallons; and at least doubling the use of alternative fuels like biofuels, electricity, hydrogen and renewable natural gas, the agency said.

Infrastructure Investment

The governor the state must deal with “longstanding infrastructure challenges.”

California is “finally grappling with the long-term sustainability” of its water supply, Brown said citing voters' approval in November of a $7.5 billion water bond and spending plan and his California Water Action Plan.

Brown called on the Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to improve the states' roads, highways and bridges. The state has accumulated an estimated $59 billion in needed upkeep and maintenance, he said.

“Each year, we fall further and further behind and we must do something about it,” Brown said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carolyn Whetzel in Los Angeles at cwhetzel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com