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Most aggressive climate change action in nation now law in California

Governor Gavin Newsom said the state is taking action to protect millions of residents from climate crises and lead the nation in mitigating the effects of climate change.

VALLEJO, Calif. (CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an expansive package of bills Friday earmarking billions to tackle climate change.

Standing in Solano County on Friday, Newsom highlighted a record $54 billion climate investment in this year’s budget. He signed 40 bills recently passed by the Legislature including Assembly Bill 1279, the California Climate Crisis Act. It codifies policy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and ensures that by the same year human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to at least 85% below 1990 levels. 

He also approved Senate Bill 1020, the Clean Energy, Jobs and Affordability Act of 2022. This bill makes the California Air Resources Board responsible for monitoring and regulating sources of greenhouse gasses, planning for “maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and conducting public workshops — including for communities of color and low-income communities. It also sets interim targets to reach 100% carbon neutrality by 2045 — with goals to reach 90% neutrality by 2030 and 95% by 2040.

Newsom said he signed the bills in Vallejo at a site near a solar-powered facility with Valero Benicia Refinery behind him, to represent “a point of contrast” to the bills being signed.

“This side represents the past, this side represents the future,” he said. 

State Senator John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who wrote SB 1020, praised the decision to form a 12-member Senate working group to pass this package after many similar bills stalled in last year’s legislative session.

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Downey, addressed the crowd in Spanish to describe the personal significance of the bill package. “All my life I’ve heard ‘It's not your turn, wait a little longer.' But for the first time, we’re telling communities like mine, ‘You’re going to be at the forefront,'" she said, "We’re creating a pathway for how to do that equitably for our most vulnerable communities.”

Newsom said the effort has California poised to move up the list of the world's largest economies.

“We talk often about leadership, and the old paradigm was command and control,” Newsom said. “We now know it's about climate control, creating conditions where success becomes irresistible. We’re on our way — eat your heart out, Germany — to become the fourth largest economy in the world. And it's appropriate that this state would lead this space.”

Newsom also took the opportunity to compare California’s efforts to states like Texas and the ongoing Republican pushback against climate change, saying Texas burned nearly 23 million tons of coal in the first five months of the year. 

“For all the people selling stupid on Fox and who double down on stupid every night, here we are, leapfrogging ahead,” he said. He noted California weathered the recent historic heat wave without rolling blackouts, which was “the most extreme test our state has ever faced," and called the Legislature’s move to pass $53.9 billion for climate action even more progress to adjust to climate crises. 

“I think the world’s waking up,” Newsom said. “If you don't believe in science, you have to believe your own eyes. If you don’t believe in global warming, maybe you now believe in global heating.”

Asked how the plan would address equity in accessing electric vehicles, he cited $10 billion set aside for electric vehicle accessibility and the state's work targeting low-income communities for charging stations. There will also be rebates and down payment options to help people convert their gas-powered vehicles and make their first EV purchases. 

And although polls indicate 55% of voters are likely to support Proposition 30 — which would levy a 1.75% tax on those earning more than $2 million a year, with revenue funneled into zero-emission vehicle purchases, infrastructure and wildfire prevention efforts — Newsom said he thinks this bill package is more effective and called Proposition 30 “unnecessary and misleading.”

“The consequences are being felt, yet we have to disenthrall ourselves of a world we created that created these conditions,” he said. “And that’s why I think this package is balanced, thoughtful and appropriated itself in a way where we can achieve its goals.”

Among the bills signed into law Friday are Senate Bill 905, which directs the California Air Resources Board to create a carbon capture and storage program to accelerate the deployment of carbon management technologies in a safe and equitable way. 

“California has once again proven its leadership in climate action and technological innovation with the passage of SB 905,” said Ben Grove, carbon storage manager at Clean Air Task Force, in a statement released after the Legislature passed the bill. “Carbon capture and storage is an essential part of the climate solution, and the passage of this legislation underpins the need for an expanded suite of decarbonization solutions to reduce emissions and achieve California’s climate goals.”

Assembly Bill 1757, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, makes the Air Resources Board responsible for monitoring and regulating greenhouse gas sources and mandates statewide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to at least 40% below the 1990 emissions level no later than Dec. 31, 2030. The board will have to approve a scoping plan for achieving the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and update it at least once every five years.

Newsom also signed Senate Bill 1137 to establish health and safety buffer zones or “setbacks” for new and reworked oil wells, and SB 1314, which bans the use of captured and recovered carbon in enhanced oil recovery.

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