California’s Climate Change Law Survives

Even in these dark economic times, Proposition 23, a proposal that would have rejected California’s ambitious 2006 AB 32 global warming law, was overwhelmingly voted down by state voters, reports Reuters. California’s climate change law calls for limiting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the creation of a new market for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a move that will put a price on carbon, and a higher percentage of state energy to come from renewable sources. The rejected referendum is seen as a win for Silicon Valley investors who have invested much in new clean energy technologies and applications like electric vehicles.

The Los Angeles Times reports that national environmental groups are lauding the win, saying it could help spur the development of a nation-wide carbon trading system. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said: “Almost 10 million Californians got a chance to vote and sent a clear message that they want a clean energy future. And this was in an economic downturn. There has never been anything this big. It is going to send a signal to other parts of the country and beyond.” Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy told Reuters: “This is reaffirmation that we are a country of some enlightenment. A majority of Californians, even in great stress of unemployment and economic demise, will still accept this responsibility. Rejecting an attempt to destroy the environment is a good thing.”

If voters had supported the measure, it would have put a hold on AB 32 until unemployment fell to 5.5 percent or less for four straight quarters. Supporters thought the measure would add to California’s economic woes. Stopping the law would “halt a dangerous rise in energy costs at a time when California – hard hit by the recession, financial crisis and housing meltdown – can least afford it.” Renewable energy and technology companies argue instead that AB 32 encourages investment in new industries that can create jobs in California.

Jerry Brown, former Governor, also beat out former Ebay President Meg Whitman, to become governor once again. According to Reuters, this will help in the implementation of AB 32: Brown has committed to getting 33 percent of California’s energy from renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Read the article and learn more about the details of the law.

In other news, The Guardian (UK) reports that action on climate and energy legislation may be less likely with the Republican sweep of the House of Representatives, arguing that there has been “a decisive power shift in Congress towards those who deny the existence of man-made climate change or who oppose government action on global warming.” Think Progress, a Web site run by the Center for American Progress, says “50% of the more than 100 Republican newcomers deny the existence of man-made climate change. An overwhelming majority, 86%, oppose legislation that would raise taxes on polluting industries.”

Image credit: BrightSource Solar thermal plant / Consumer Energy Report

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