It’s been said that the best time to act on climate change was yesterday, and the next best time is today. I agree.
My work on climate change began in earnest in the California State Legislature. As a member of the state Assembly, I coauthored (with then-State Sen. Byron Sher) the landmark 2002 Renewables Portfolio Standards bill, which required California electricity providers to acquire at least one-fifth of their power from clean, renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal by 2017.
Some years later, as a state senator, I chaired the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality; in that role I coauthored and helped guide the passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act (also known as AB 32, coauthored by Assemblymembers Fabian Nunez and Fran Pavley). The law established the state’s most aggressive effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To make sure we’d actually achieve those goals, I wrote legislation moving the deadline for 20% renewable energy use up to 2010, while also strengthening the program’s monitoring and economic efficiency.
I soon went even further, authoring legislation to increase clean renewables to fully one-third (33%) of the state’s electricity. In 2011, while I was serving as chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, my “33% Renewable Energy by 2020” bill was approved and signed into law. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu called it a “groundbreaking piece of legislation.”
Today, California is demonstrating impressive outcomes from the implementation of those climate policies. Our economy is growing while carbon pollution is declining. And with innovative advancements in clean energy and energy efficiency, the state is poised to meet even more ambitious renewable energy goals. As we should.
People said it couldn’t be done, but we did it. Today, California has a deep climate and energy portfolio to draw from and expand upon. We’ve been able to make that happen because we made the progress I was sure we could on renewable energy.
When I returned to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2013, I was determined that we take steps at the county level to do our part. Fortunately, our entire board was committed to the cause. Some of these efforts include:
To achieve a comprehensive urban forest and 20% to 40% urban canopy coverage in our county (the minimum required to reap the societal and environmental benefits provided by trees, mitigate climate change impacts and adapt regional ecology for the next generation), the county secured a grant from the CalFIRE Urban and Community Forestry program to help fund the effort.
Addressing the impacts of climate change is a job that requires a range of solutions and “all hands on deck.” The need for urgency is increasingly apparent, and the clock is ticking.
We have to do more, and we have to do it faster. Let’s go!
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian represents the Fifth District, which includes Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Stanford, portions of San Jose and unincorporated communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sign up for Simitian’s monthly newsletter at district5.sccgov.org/newsletter.
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