Californians vote for climate leadership
Happy Monday morning! Canny readers will notice that I missed my Friday deadline last week, for which I apologize. My only excuse is that I’ve been doing a bunch of writing elsewhere – on oil prices for Politico, on the importance of universities in combating climate change for Second Nature, and on a whole host of things including my favorite energy/climate movie for the Wall Street Journal (OK, I’m actually still writing those, but they’ll be online soon).
Enough excuses. While I’ve been tapping away on the computer, others have been negotiating actual historic climate deals. Last week President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement establishing targets to reduce their carbon emissions after 2020. The most important piece of the deal is China’s first-ever commitment to stop emissions growth by 2030 at the latest, and to do whatever it can to move that target up. As part of the deal, China will also significantly ramp up its investment in renewable energy technologies, which will expand the global market for these products and bring their prices down (if you don’t believe me, witness what’s happened to the solar market over the past few years as China invested heavily in solar technology). The deal also raises hope for a larger, multi-party climate agreement at the UN meeting in Paris next year. Good news for all of us. Read this NYT op-ed from Secretary of State John Kerry for more.
Here in California, this election cycle shows that the state is staying strong in its commitment to lead by example in addressing climate change. Here’s a brief round-up of notable election results:
- California reelected Jerry Brown to the Governor’s office, cementing his place in history books with an unprecedented fourth term in office, and giving us four more years of First Dog Sutter Brown. Governor Brown has proven himself as a leader in climate policy: He has not only been a champion for California’s AB 32 here at home, but also taken the initiative to increase collaboration with neighbors in Mexico , Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and even China. With four more years in office he says he’ll push for even more ambitious emissions targets and policies to increase the state’s reliance on renewable energy sources and electric vehicles.
- Prop 1, which passed with 67% of the statewide vote, provides much needed bond funding for state water infrastructure projects. Take a look at the vote map, which looks strikingly different than most energy or climate-related vote maps, in that the entire Central Valley was solidly in favor of the bond measure. Water may poll differently than climate, but the two issues are inextricably linked: Recent research from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and USGS shows that each 1° C of warmer temperatures could result in a loss of about 23 percent of the snowpack typical today. Prop 1 is fundamentally a climate adaptation bill, and will fund projects to will help protect California communities and businesses against short- and long-term water shortages due to decreasing snowpack in the Sierras and increasing variability in overall precipitation.
- And, while it seems like we can’t buy a rainy day in California, the creation of a Rainy Day Fund with Proposition 2 should help us avoid a return to Furlough Fridays, by squirrelling away cash in strong economic times. This is actually important for energy and climate advocates in that it will help us avoid cuts to programs such as wildfire prevention and response during belt-tightening years.
- Meanwhile, while all the electioneering was going on, California Attorney General Kamala Harris quietly (finally!) appointed the remaining three members of the Proposition 39 Citizen Oversight Baord. Strangely, I can’t find this news online anywhere, but I have on good authority that Arno Harris, Randall Martinez, and Chelina Odbert are now members of the COB. Now that it’s complete, we can finally meet! I look forward to working with all my fellow board members in the coming years as the program puts valuable dollars to work in our state’s K-12 schools and community colleges.
Unfortunately, while the political dust storm has mostly settled, the dust, smog, and air pollution in California are worse than ever. The drought and unusually warm fall temperatures have resulted in a spike in harmful air pollution in the most vulnerable parts of the state. The LA Times’ Tony Barboza has the scoop on air quality conditions in the Greater LA and Inland Empire regions, while KQED’s California Report shows you the view from smoggy Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley.
And, of course, it still hasn’t really rained. I’m headed to Japan this week to tell the Japan Climate Leaders’ Partnership about the Risky Business Project, and will be crossing my fingers from there that the rumors of rain later in the week are true. Syonara!