California has long been a leader in the fight against global warming, with more solar panels and electric cars than anywhere else in the nation. But the state’s ambitious climate policies are now facing the biggest showdown ever.
Voters in California are deciding whether or not to overthrow the Democratic Government. Gavin Newsom Before the recall elections on September 14. Many Republicans vying to replace Mr. Newsom want to undo the state’s aggressive plans to curb planet-warming emissions; This is a move that could have nationwide implications for climate change efforts, given California’s impact as the world’s fifth largest economy.
Under election rules, if more than 50 percent of voters choose to recall him, Mr. Newsom will be removed from office. In such a case, the governor’s office will go to whichever of the 46 substitute candidates on the ballot gets the most votes – even if that person does not win a majority.
Democrats worry Mr Newsom may lose, but last week’s poll indicates that voters in the state are starting to rally around him.
Polls say leading Republican Larry the Elder, a conservative radio host who said in an interview that “global warming alarmism is a lie” and plans to “stop the oil and gas war”. Another leading candidate, Republican businessman John Cox, says California’s climate policies have made the state unaffordable for many. Also competing is San Diego’s former Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, who oversaw the city’s first climate plan but disputes Mr Newsom’s approach.
“There’s real potential for a big change in direction,” said Richard Frank, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Davis. “California has had a significant impact on the direction of climate policy, both nationally and internationally, and this can easily be diminished.”
Under the last three governors – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown, and Mr. Newsom – California has enacted some of the most sweeping laws and regulations in the country to move away from fossil fuels.
This includes the necessity of utilities It gets 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources. such as wind and solar energy by 2045 limit exhaust pipe pollution from cars and trucks and creating code that encourages developers moving away from natural gas for home heating. The California legislature has ordered the Air Resources Board, the state’s powerful air regulator, to reduce statewide emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
While California accounts for only a fraction of the nation’s emissions, it often acts as a testing ground for climate policy. The clean electricity standard has been mirrored by states like New York and Colorado, and Democrats in Congress are now create a nationwide release.
Transition to Electric Cars
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state allowed to set its own vehicle pollution rules. California’s rules were adopted by 14 other states and often forced the federal government. to tweeze their own arrangements.
But California has also struggled with the transition to cleaner energy and the effects of global warming. A record heatwave last August triggered power outages across the state, in part due to grid operators. hadn’t added enough clean power To compensate for the solar panels being disabled after sunset. Pacific Gas and Electric, the state’s largest utility, has repeatedly had to turn off electricity to customers to keep fires from sparking.
As the top elected official in a state plagued by record-breaking droughts and wildfires, Mr. Newsom faced pressure to do more. Last September, he directed the Air Resources Board to develop the following regulations: Statewide ban on sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. Called the agencies imposing new restrictions on oil and gas drilling. More recently, the state transport agency finalized a plan directing more funds towards measures to reduce emissions, such as public transport or cycling.
And latest budgetMr. Newsom has directed more than $12 billion into a number of climate programs, including electric vehicle chargers, measures to tackle worsening water shortages, and efforts to protect forest communities from wildfires.
In his campaign against the recall, Mr. Newsom attacked his opponents for downplaying the risks of global warming. “Sorry, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to climate and climate change,” Mr. Newsom said of Mr. Elder. in an interview last month With ABC News.
“California has been at the forefront of climate leadership, and all of this can be undone very quickly,” said Nathan Click, spokesperson for Mr. Newsom’s campaign.
Mr Cox and other Republican opponents say Mr Newsom hasn’t done enough to manage California’s forests to make them less prone to fire. They argue that the flurry of environmental regulations in a state already facing a severe housing shortage is driving up costs.
“I’m in favor of cleaning up the world’s pollution, but not on the backs of middle-class and low-income people,” said Mr Cox, who had unsuccessfully challenged Mr Newsom in 2018. “While China is building a new coal power plant that fires up every week, do you really think raising the cost of energy in our state will make a significant difference?”
If Mr. Newsom is recalled, a new governor is unlikely to overturn many of California’s key climate laws, especially since the legislature will remain in the hands of Democrats. But that still leaves room for big changes.
For example, a new governor could rescind Mr. Newsom’s order to phase out new petrol vehicles by 2035, or rescind his push to restrict oil and gas drilling as they are removed by executive order. A governor may also appoint new officials less keen on climate regulation to various agencies, including the Air Resources Board, but doing so could lead to a conflict with the legislature that oversees the appointments. Any governor will also have ample latitude to shape how existing climate laws are enforced.
Talk radio host Mr. Elder said he doesn’t see climate change as a major threat and that wind and solar power will downplay its importance. “Of course, there is global warming,” he said. “The climate is always changing. Has it gotten a degree or two warmer in the last few years? Yeah. Is man-made activity part of it? Yeah. But no one knows exactly to what extent.”
He added: “The idea that the planet will be destroyed if we don’t force some kind of renewable system to feed it, that’s bullshit.”
Mr. Elder’s view contradicts the scientific consensus. Last month, a United Nations scientific panel concluded Nearly all of global warming since the 19th century has been driven by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. He also warned that unless countries reduce their planet-warming emissions by switching to cleaner energy sources, consequences such as heat waves, drought and wildfires will continue to worsen.
Rather than focus on renewable energy, Mr Cox said he would build a larger fleet of firefighting aircraft to fight bushfires. He also argued that the US should increase natural gas production and send more fuel abroad so that countries like China can rely on it instead of coal. “If we lower the cost of natural gas and ship it to China, we do great things for the world’s pollution problem,” he said.
Mr Cox also opposed Mr Newsom’s plan to phase out new petrol vehicles by 2035. “I drive Tesla, I’m in favor of electric cars,” he said. “But we’re having trouble generating enough electricity to power our air conditioners in August,” he said. “Where will we find the electricity of 25 million electric vehicles?”
Mr Faulconer, who was lower in the polls, criticized Mr Newsom for underfunding the state’s wildfire budget. While supporting the government’s push for 100 percent clean electricity, he warned that the state risks more power outages without relying on sources like nuclear power. It also said it would work with the legislature on a policy to boost electric vehicles “not based on a statewide ban” of gasoline-powered cars.
All three Republican candidates said they would press. Keep Diablo Canyon openIt’s the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, scheduled to close by 2025. Critics of the shutdown have warned that it could increase California’s power outage and burn more natural gas causing emissions.
Any new governor will only serve until the next election in California in 2022, and some experts predict the political stalemate will largely result. But even a short-term lockdown can have a significant impact on climate policy.
California already struggling To achieve the target of reducing emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Achieving this goal will likely require all government agencies to work together and develop additional strategies to reduce fossil fuel use in power plants, homes and vehicles, analysts said. . It may also require tweaking the state’s cap and trade program that limits pollution from large industrial plants, but has come under criticism for relying on it. poorly designed carbon offsets.
“We don’t have many years left between today and 2030,” said Cara Horowitz, co-director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law School. “It’s much harder to see how we’re going to get there if we waste a year or more because the Air Resources Board has been told not to prioritize cutting emissions.”
This, too, can have ripple effects across the country. President Biden Promises to halve the country’s emissions by 2030 and hopes to convince other world leaders that the United States has a plan to get there. Without California on board, this task becomes even more difficult.
California also has a huge impact on clean vehicle standards, in part because it can set its own rules and encourage the auto industry to develop cleaner cars. Biden management recently recommended essentially adopting California’s car rules nationwide. Some fear the federal government will feel less pressure to act if California continues to increase electric vehicles as Mr.
“I can’t think of a single instance where the federal government has gotten ahead of California,” said Mary Nichols, former chairman of the Air Resources Board. “California has always had this unique role as first mover.”
Shawn Hubler contributing reporting.