By ADAM NAGOURNEY APRIL 29, 2015
LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday sharply ramping up this state’s already ambitious program aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it was critical to address “an ever-growing threat” posed by global warming to the state’s economy and well-being.
Under Mr. Brown’s order, by 2030, emission levels will have to be reduced by 40 percent compared with 1990. Under existing state law, emissions are supposed to be cut 80 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2050, and Mr. Brown said this tough new interim target was essential to helping the state make investment and regulatory decisions that would assure that goal was reached.
Mr. Brown faulted Republicans in Congress for “pooh-poohing” the threat of global warming. He said that he wanted California to set an example for the rest of the country and the world on the urgency of responding to what he described as a slow-moving crisis.
The fountain has been turned off and the pool drained in front of Compton City Hall. But in upscale Cowan Heights, homeowners shower their lush lawns and top off pools and koi ponds.
“It’s a real test,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in a speech at an environmental conference in downtown Los Angeles. “Not just for California, not just for America, but for the world. Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethno-centric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”
Mr. Brown’s order marks an aggressive turn in what already was one of the toughest programs in the nation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the law put into place by Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state was required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 on the way to reach the 2050 target; California is already well on its way to meeting the 2020 goal, and may exceed it, officials said Thursday.
“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” Mr. Brown said.
The order marks the latest effort by Mr. Brown to position California as a leading force in the world’s effort to address climate change – and himself as a leader of that campaign effort as he faces his final years in public office. In his State of the State address in January, the governor called for reducing gas consumption by cars and trucks by up to 50 percent over the next 15 years.
These efforts come as this state has been struggling with a drought that Mr. Brown has said is, at least in part, exacerbated by global warming. “Climate change poses an ever-growing threat to the well-being, public health, natural resources, economy, and the environment of California, including loss of snowpack, drought, sea level rise, more frequent and intense wildfires, heat waves, more severe smog, and harm to natural and working lands, and these effects are already being felt in the state,” Mr. Brown said in his executive order.
The governor’s speech, coming at a time when he has been trying to rally the state behind tough water conservation measures, was a reminder of the often conflicting demands of these twin challenges. Some of the central efforts proposed to alleviate the drought – including the building of desalinization plants to make ocean water potable – are highly energy intensive.
Interactive Graphic: How Water Cuts Could Affect Every Community in California
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The governor’s order did not give details of how the state would reach the new goals, though Mr. Brown in his speech here noted the success of the auto and energy industry so far in meeting the emission targets that the state has set over the years. He disputed the argument — voiced by Republicans in recent years — that such efforts would increase the cost of doing business in California.
“We’re sending the signals to the private economy to create, to innovate, and to make the kind of response that will enable Californians to live in compatibility with the environment,” he said. “We can do it.”
Lawmakers in Sacramento have been pushing through legislation intended to help achieve long-term cuts in emissions. Kevin de Leon, the Democratic leader of the State Senate, said Mr. Brown’s order exemplified “California’s global leadership on climate change.”
“We see the framework of a new economy for tomorrow,” Mr. de Leon said in an interview. “And that’s why it’s critical that we move forward with these far-reaching and progressive policies. That is why the world is watching what we are doing here in California.”
California’s target reflects those set by other governments — including the European Union — ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris this year. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the conference, issued a statement praising Mr. Brown’s order.
“California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe,” she said. “It is yet another reason for optimism in advance of the U.N. climate conference in Paris in December.”