When California passed AB32 in 2006, state leaders were feted all over the world for their strong leadership and their willingness to do the hard work in the fight against climate change.
But now the party’s over. The state Legislature is embroiled in a tough fight around SB350 and SB32, two critical bills that represent California’s next steps toward achieving our climate change goals.
This year’s legislative deadline is Friday, so legislators must act now.
The most controversial bill is SB350, by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.
The petroleum industry has its guns aimed on the bill, which would require the state Air Resources Board to decide how the state should reduce petroleum use by 50 percent over the next 15 years and require utilities to increase their renewable energy portfolios to 50 percent by 2030. It would also require improved energy efficiency in buildings.
Those are tough goals, but they’re achievable. California can get there without resorting to the scare tactics that the oil industry is suggesting in its disingenuous ad campaigns (a ban on minivans and SUVs, Soviet-style gas rationing, and other over-the-top threats).
The state Assembly’s own analysis points out that California’s existing regulations have already set the stage for a decline in statewide petroleum consumption by 31 to 41 percent by 2030.
SB350 represents one more push, not a paradigm shift.
Still, there are a few waverers among the moderate Democrats in the state Assembly. (SB350 has already passed the state Senate.)
De León is still seeking to compromise with them (he’s offered amendments to beef up oversight of the state Air Resources Board and is open to giving the state Legislature a chance to modify whatever regulations the board winds up proposing), which is positive. Increasing oversight of the board would be an especially good idea.
But there should be no compromise on the centerpiece guidelines of the bill. After all, the climate isn’t willing to compromise with California.
SB32, authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County), has gotten less attention — but it doesn’t deserve to get lost in the end-of-the-year fray.
SB32 requires California to further slash greenhouse gas emissions, first to 40 percent below 1990 levels (by 2030), and eventually to 80 percent below 1990 levels (by 2050).
These are ambitious goals, and the state Legislature will have to refine them as technology and conditions change. But there’s no reason to believe that California can’t adapt to high standards.
Since we passed AB32, California’s economy has grown — not cratered. We’ve added jobs all over the economy, from manufacturing to clean technology.
Have there been financial costs? Yes. But Californians also value public health and the future of the planet, and that’s why the state Legislature needs to stop dithering and pass SB32 and SB350.
©2015 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.