On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown upped the ante on climate change action by establishing new greenhouse gas reduction targets of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. This new target is the most aggressive climate change goal of any government in North America. It puts California on track to meet the goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050, a goal that’s in line with the scientifically established criteria to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees C.
California’s existing climate change target, enacted during Gov. Schwarzenegger’s term of office, was to match 1990 levels by 2020. California’s response to that target has been so good that the state may well exceed the goal before 2020.
“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” said Governor Brown.
The new goal, 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, is in line with other climate change goals enacted by governments around the world. For example the European Union adopted the same goal in October 2014. Gov. Brown’s move comes ahead of 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris next Fall.
California’s new climate change goals are part of a larger Executive Order, B-30-15, recognizing climate change as a grave threat to the well-being, public health, natural resources, economy and the environment of California. The Executive Order calls for:
- The new statewide greenhouse gas reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
- All state agencies presiding over sources of greenhouse gas emissions must implement measures to achieve that goal
- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) must update the Climate Change Scoping Plan
- California Natural Resources Agency must make updates every three years to California’s climate adaptation strategy – Safeguarding California
- Development of implementation plans by September 2015 outlining actions identified in the Safeguarding California report
- State agencies must take climate change impacts into account in planning and investment decisions
- State agency planning and investment guided by principles to build climate preparedness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prioritize natural infrastructure solutions, and protect California’s most vulnerable populations
- Take current and future climate change impacts into account in California’s Five-Year Infrastructure Plan
- Establish a technical advisory group to help California agencies incorporate climate change impacts into planning and investment decisions
- Continue rigorous climate change research, focused on understanding climate change impacts
In his inaugural address earlier this year, Gov. Brown announced that within the next 15 years California will raise renew-ably produced electricity from 1/3rd to 50%, reduce petroleum consumption in cars and trucks by 50%, double the efficiency savings in existing buildings and more. Together those measures will reduce methane releases, black carbon and other pollutants from industry, and focus farm and range-land, forests and wetlands to act as carbon storage.
California is facing a serious water crisis that is possibly being made worse by climate change. Most of California’s water comes during the Winter as snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For several years in a row the Sierra snow levels were much lower than normal, with this year’s being the lowest ever recorded. The culprit is changing weather patterns making Winter-time rain and snow fall in places other than California.
On April 1, Gov. Brown issued another Executive Order ordering the California undertake strong water conservation measures. In a press conference at that time, staged high in the mountains which should have been covered in snow, he said “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action.”
On April 28, Gov. Brown met with Mayors from across California announcing his administration will propose legislation to help local officials enforce water conservation requirements, and direct state agencies to streamline environmental review of water supply projects. “These measures will strengthen the ability of local officials to build new water projects and ensure that water is not wasted,” said Governor Brown. “As this drought stretches on, we’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to help communities save more water.”