For better and for worse, California stands on the front lines of climate change. As the Golden State struggles with an historic and devastating drought, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed SB350 into law, setting a high bar in climate change policy to which other states should aspire. With this new legislation, the California state government aims to increase the use of renewable energy as well as improve energy efficiency in new and existing buildings.
Governor Brown signed SB350 at Griffith Observatory, which overlooks Los Angeles. The smog-ridden skies behind the governor provided a clear example of why environmental protection is so vitally important, locally and globally. “We are talking about the big world of avoiding climate catastrophe, but we are talking about the immediate world of people living in Riverside, Los Angeles and other places,” Brown said. “This is big. It is big because it is global in scope, but it is also big because it is local in application.”
Under SB350, California is required to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable power sources by 2030. Under this same timeline, homes, offices and factories will need to double their energy efficiency. A third pillar of the ambitious bill was intended to cut gasoline usage in half by 2030, but was ultimately removed after intense opposition from oil companies.
State Senate Leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), author of SB350, intends the bill to be groundbreaking in more ways than one. “We are doing away with the tired old stereotypes of environmentalism as a pastime of the wealthy and the elite.” The bill’s provisions will also assist in the groundbreaking of a regional electricity grid, which could facilitate greater access to renewable energy in Western states. Even the California utilities are onboard with the monumental measure.
“We have absolutely no doubt that we’ll be able to get there,” says Geisha Williams, president of electric operations at Pacific Gas & Electric. “We have a real opportunity to create a model that other states and nations can follow.”
Images via PBS and California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment