California legislators made history this past week with the passage of SB 100, a landmark environmental bill that aims to eliminate state reliance on fossil fuels. The bill proposes a statewide commitment to run entirely off of renewable energy by the year 2045, potentially becoming the second state following Hawaii’s lead in embracing bold clean energy goals to combat the harmful effects of climate change. SB 100 passed the Senate last year, passed the Assembly earlier this week, and is now making its way through the reconciliation process between the two chambers. Yesterday marked the last day of the legislative session, and as we head into final recess, everyone is patiently waiting for the final stamp of approval from Governor Jerry Brown to implement SB 100 into law.
This bill is yet another step in California’s transition towards environmental sustainability, coming off the heels of other impactful initiatives such as incentivising electric vehicle charging stations, mandating solar panel systems on new homes, and limiting industrial carbon emissions through the state’s cap-and-trade system.
Environmental State of Urgency
California currently gets around 30% of its power from renewable sources according to the California Energy Commission, but SB 100 wants to eliminate fossil fuels from the equation completely in an attempt to limit the production of greenhouse gases from any and all carbon-based fuel sources. In the meantime, as legislators have been revising bills and engaging in important discussions on environmental policy, California has also been experiencing one of the worst fire seasons of all time in modern history this past summer. Fires were raging in areas all over the state, burning brush from Sacramento to Los Angeles, with rising temperatures breaking record highs every year.
Time is running out. The Presidential administration has not made any effort to codify stronger environmental regulations, but has instead rolled back years of crucial protections and funding in favor of coal and power plants that are directly responsible for contributing to air and water pollution. It is aggressively obvious that California must defend itself against the ineffective and senseless leadership that is presiding in the White House today.
Endorsed by an array of stakeholders and representatives, from environmental activist and former Vice President Al Gore to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, SB 100 boasts a large coalition of support that bridges partisan gaps and instead shifts the conversation to policy rather than politics. In addition to its 100% carbon-free energy goal by 2045, it also sets two other earlier targets for the state, including 50% renewable energy by 2026 and 60% by 2030. These new targets will hopefully motivate the industrial sector to innovate efficient means for energy production and storage, as well as underscore the necessity for reducing harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Nonetheless, even with this large amount of vocalized support, SB 100 is not without its critics. Utility companies and business interests question the need for these regulations, arguing that California is already outperforming its clean energy goals. Utility and power companies, particularly, are concerned about the significant costs involved in updating energy storage systems. While these critiques are valid, committing to large-scale clean energy will attract more investments into the sector, push developers to innovate new technology, and revive the economy with more employment opportunities as we work to mitigate the impacts of climate change for our future.
Looking Towards the Future
This landmark legislation will also prove to be an influential factor in California’s upcoming midterm elections in November, bolstering the reputation of local and statewide progressive candidates that value sustainability on their platforms. The momentum will potentially help the bill’s own author, State Senator Kevin de León, gain substantial recognition in the midst of his campaign for U.S. Senator, challenging longtime incumbent and political powerhouse Dianne Feinstein. This victory may have come too late for de León who is trailing far behind Feinstein 46% lead with only 24% of likely voter support, according to recent polls by the Public Policy Institute of California. However, the same poll indicated that 56% of likely voters are strongly interested in the candidates’ environmental policy positions, a sign that, at the very least, Californians are no longer satisfied with the status quo. California leaders have repeatedly expressed their commitment to strengthening environmental protections and advancing environmental initiatives “to tackle climate change and the devastation that it’s leaving in its wake”, de León says.
This bill is a proud example of our statewide leaders truly reflecting the values of California and embodying its strength and courage as a progressive beacon of influence. California currently generates significant influence as the fifth-largest economy in the world, positioning itself in a vital role to take leadership on global issues that are affecting communities everywhere, such as with climate change.
“California is ground-zero for the effects of climate change. Already this year we are seeing larger and more destructive wildfires than ever before. Air pollution threatens our public health daily. Temperatures in Los Angeles are at historic highs and sea-level rise is threatening our world-famous coastline. This is all happening while the occupant of the White House constantly works to fan the flames by weakening our clean energy and environmental protection policies every day. California must take a stand and tell the world we are, as always, undeterred by those who wish to stop our progress and move backwards.”
We, as Californians, must protect the right to clean air and water, the right to breathe without being poisoned by the byproducts of an industrial sector forged through capitalism at the expense of the well-being of its workers. We must stand against the injustices perpetrated by the destructive grip of climate change on our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. SB 100 will lay the groundwork towards that mission and hopefully influence the rest of the country to implement concerted efforts towards protecting our environment for the sake of our global humanity.