The timing is good for California to take a major step toward phasing out fossil fuels—both for the environment and for a planned summit. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill to require that California get all its energy from carbon-free, renewable sources like wind turbines and solar farms by the end of 2045. Brown also signed legislation to prevent new gas and oil drilling off the coast.
Governor Brown will be able to make a formal announcement on a global scale this week. On Wednesday, September 12th, attendees will arrive in San Francisco for the start of the two-day Global Climate Action Summit. As readers may recall, Governor Brown pledged to convene states to participate on the international stage to resist climate change when the president ceremoniously declared last year the United States would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, so this convening fits with that commitment. More than 100 representatives of sectors across the globe—corporate CEOs, leaders of cities and countries, nonprofits, scientists, and invested individuals—will demonstrate actions that have been taken to “reduce their emissions; secure bold commitments to do even more, show that decarbonization, job generation, and resilient economic growth go hand-in-hand; and galvanize a global movement for climate action that leaves no one behind.”
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One of the co-chairs for the event is Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action. (Bloomberg Philanthropies is a sponsor.) Other famous names scheduled to attend include Jane Goodall and Vice President Al Gore.
It is likely the summit speakers from California are editing their notes to include the bill’s details in the discussions and presentations. As the bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de León, said to the San Francisco Chronicle, “When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down.”
Although California has been working toward getting its utilities to use renewable energy since at least 2002, the concerted effort began in 2015 with Brown mandating that 50 percent of their power come from renewables by the end of 2030. Construction of solar power plants and wind farms thrived because of that bill, and now the state “often produces more renewable power at midday than it needs.” The new bill moves that 50-percent goal up four years, to 2026.
Other states and cities have seen similar positive change. Before California did it, Hawaii became the first state in 2015 to mandate a complete shift from fossil fuels by 2045. The mayor of Maui County, Alan Arakawa, in a keynote speech for a Maui Energy Conference, said, “Around the world, you are seeing more and more island communities become renewable energy leaders.” Minneapolis and Denver have made the move to be powered 100 percent by renewables by 2030. Over 75 other cities have made the same pledge with different deadlines. Even the business side is looking to power out of fossils. Traverse City Light & Power in Michigan has committed the utility to 100 percent renewables by 2040.—Marian Conway