California has made history with S.B. 100, a bill that requires all retail energy to come from renewable resources by 2045. This bill will make California only the second state to do so, but as as the fifth largest economy in the world and the United States’ most populous state, it is a landmark step in the fight against climate change.
While over 70% of Californians agree with the bill, it came with some push back from utility companies and energy intensive industries such as agriculture. Those who were against the bill cited concerns about job loss during the transition, and what renewable energy may hold for big business.
Despite these concerns, S.B. 100 passed by a small majority, 44-33 in favor of the bill. Right now California gets about a third of its energy from renewable resources. This includes solar and wind powered installations as well as geothermal generation sites. California also generates about 9% of its energy from nuclear power plants, which is a somewhat debated source of clean energy. About half of its energy comes from natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels, but is actually potentially more damaging to the environment due to the amount of methane that natural gas emits.
Governor Brown signed SB 100 into law just before the Global Climate Action Summit. The bill helped bring concrete action to the climate movement, and is exactly what needs to be done in order to stop greenhouse gases from warming our planet even more. At the same time he also issued executive order B-55-18, calling for California to become completely carbon neutral over the same period of time.
The executive order isn't law, but it is a strong statement confirming California’s commitment to climate action. These moves come in stark contrast to the White House, which has dismissed climate change and sought to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Through this bill and the executive order, California will seek to become completely carbon neutral, which is in line with the ambitions of the Paris Climate Accord.
These actions are more possible than claiming that California will be a zero carbon state. Carbon neutral means that carbon offsets, such as putting money into forest land or companies that actively reduce the carbon emissions available, are an option for businesses and individuals. This makes the executive order a lot more likely to be successful, and legitimizes the efforts of any states that would like to follow.
“This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond. It will not be easy. It will not be immediate. But it must be done,” Jerry Brown said at the signing.
It's not yet clear how the bill will be put into action. While SB 100 gives lawmakers and businesses a very clear direction to go in, it doesn't provide any instructions on how to get there. California already has several similar bills in place, all of which are less ambitious, but many of them aren't on track to complete on time.
Critics are concerned that the bill will harm Californians and exists only to please politicians. The bill has been stalled over the last 2 years over concerns of the cost and feasibility of putting an ambitious plan such as this one into action.
California has long been a pioneer in forward thinking laws, and the success or failure of this bill will determine whether other states will follow. If it succeeds, it will show that even a large economy such as California can still be successful without harming the planet. It's a worthwhile goal, and one that can not only have a positive local impact for Californians but set a progressive prescient for climate action.