The California State Assembly last week approved sweeping legislation that extends the state’s targets for reducing greenhouse gases from 2020 to 2030. Under SB 32, California would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
The new legislation builds off of the projected success of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which calls for California to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 — a target the state is expected to reach.
California’s aggressive climate policies — combined with the sheer size of its economy — have helped it create the most clean energy jobs of any state in the country, according to a study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center. The Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) has created 25,500 blue-collar job years — or around 53 million hours of blue-collar construction work. Many of these jobs have been created in regions of the state where they are most needed, with high unemployment and low income.
Despite this, some opponents of SB 32 argued that it would hurt the economy, claiming AB 32 has been ruinous to California job growth. State Republicans blasted SB 32 as giving too much power to the Air Resources Board in determining how the state meets its targets and said the regulations already in place have hurt businesses.
Climate Action Helps the Economy
While politicizing climate change action is nothing new in California or in the United States overall — Republicans regularly reject it out of hand with claims that taking environmental actions hurt the economy — we now have solid evidence that these claims are unfounded. AB 32 has created thousands of jobs and injected billions of dollars in economic benefits in every Assembly district in the state, according to a new analysis by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)
In southeast Los Angeles, for example, the district has received $155 million in documented, in-district investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and other climate projects. This investment has created nearly 4,000 new local jobs and reduced dangerous greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 1,900 cars off the road.
In Bakersfield, the district has received nearly $1.5 billion through documented, in-district investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and other climate projects. This has helped create more than 3,800 local jobs and reduced emissions by the equivalent of nearly 150,000 automobiles.
200 Business Leaders Throw in Support
The day before the vote, nearly 200 business leaders and other E2 members sent a letter in support of SB 32 and imploring quick action on climate targets.
"The business community played a large role in supporting SB 32 during the legislative session," Sam Irvine, a fellow at E2, told Sustainable Brands. "For thousands of Californians the policy creates the regulatory certainty needed to foster a growing green economy that will bring them jobs. For business leaders looking for primed market environments it indicates that California is open for business."
The nation’s largest companies are rapidly embracing renewable energy sourcing and greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts, according to a 2014 report from Calvert Investments, Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates and World Wildlife Fund. These efforts increasingly are becoming the new “business as usual” among many of the country’s largest companies, with 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies having set targets in at least one of three categories: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency, and procuring more renewable energy.
Some 60 percent of the Fortune 100 have goals for renewable energy or greenhouse gas reductions. Through these initiatives, the 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets have collectively saved $1.1 billion annually and decreased their annual carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons — the equivalent of retiring 15 coal-fired power plants. Companies from** Apple** to** REI** already are recognizing the advantages of embracing renewable energy and other sustainability measures to their bottom lines.