LOS ANGELES (CN) — California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two measures Thursday that make the nation’s most advanced climate laws even tougher, overcoming opposition that once imperiled his goals.
Brown signed the two bills into law at the Vista Hermosa Natural Park. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Standing at a podium with a startling view of the downtown cityscape behind him, Brown said there are powerful forces working against action on climate change including oil companies and car companies. Meanwhile, people with low incomes in the Central Valley, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties have to live with some of dirtiest air in the nation.
“What we’re doing here is far-sighted as well as far-reaching and it takes a lot of courage and a lot of vision. California’s doing something that no other state has done, putting into law real measures backed up by the real power of the state of California. This is big and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said.
The governor spoke in the 10-acre park in front of a small audience. Joining him on the stage were legislative, environmental, business and community leaders, including state Sen. Fran Pavely, D-Agoura Hills, and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, who authored the two measures.
Pavley’s bill was created to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while Garcia’s measure was created to make sure disadvantaged communities see the benefit of emissions reductions and to give the California Legislature oversight of putting climate policies into action.
Pavely, who retiring this year because of term limits, said that Brown’s predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed another climate bill she had co-authored in 2006, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. At that time, Schwarzenegger had said it was possible to tackle climate change and improve the economy.
“Gov. Schwarzenegger was right. Here we are 10 years later. Emissions have gone down, the economy has gone up. It’s been a success story,” Pavely said.
She added that it was important to codify the goals that Brown set in an executive order on April 29 to reduce emissions over the next decade and a half, so that businesses know the law will stay in place.
Speaking after Pavely, Garcia said that he had never considered himself a climate activist but that he had teamed up with senator because of the stark challenges his constituents face. In Imperial Valley, six out of 10 children have asthma, the assemblyman said.
“For me, it’s extremely important that we focus specifically on people — people of color, communities that are set back that have a direct link to the economic challenges,” Garcia said.
Tim Frank of the group Center for Sustainable Neighborhoods told Courthouse News before Brown took the stage that his organization was glad that the measures were going to become law.
“It represents a commitment in California to actually taking action on climate change, not just for the next few years but for the long haul,” Frank said. “This is going to take decades to put together and to fix, and California clearly signaled today that it wants to be in the lead role over the next couple of decades.”
Last year, Brown’s plans appeared in the lurch when business-friendly Democrats backed by the oil industry defeated an earlier version of the Pavley’s climate bill.
State officials say California is currently on course to reach a goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels in 2020, in line with the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
“This 2030 goal will help make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050,” Brown’s office said in a statement.
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