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California pledges to go carbon free by 2045

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Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, has signed a bill committing the wealthiest and most populous US state to phase out fossil fuels from its electricity sector by 2045.

The law, Senate Bill (SB) 100, was written by State Senator Kevin de León, who is running for a seat in the US Senate during the November midterm elections.

After 2045, the state will be committed to only emitting net negative greenhouse gas emissions. The bill also requires California to generate at least 60 per cent of its energy from renewable sources including wind and solar by 2030 (raised from an existing target of 50 per cent). There is no penalty specified for the state failing to meet its targets.

The bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who is hosting an international climate change summit in San Francisco this week. Along with SB 100, Brown signed an executive order which will require the state to capture as much carbon dioxide as it emits through efforts such as forest and wetland restoration and new carbon capture technologies. California already has an initiative which lays out charges for carbon emissions in order to encourage reductions with an aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.

Brown had suggested previously that a regional energy grid could allow for states on the West Coast to share energy and improve efficiency. He now argues that this sort of grid – along with new battery technology – is necessary for California to achieve 100 per cent clean energy without insurmountable expense.

“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change. No matter what the naysayers may say, it is a real, present danger to California and people of the world,” Brown commented during the signing ceremony in Sacramento.

Brown has been criticised by environmental groups for being lenient with the oil and gas industries (which thrive in California), while the business lobbyists have criticised his environmental policies, arguing that it will raise the price of energy and make it difficult to compete with companies in other states. However, Brown is standing by his policies and calling for other states and nations to follow California’s example in setting ambitious targets to mitigate climate change.

“We want others to do likewise and if enough people often enough do what is needed, we will curb global warming,” Brown told the Associated Press. “But we’re definitely at the beginning of what’s going to be a long and difficult and contentious journey.”

The bill puts California even further at odds with the federal government, following President Donald Trump’s 2017 announcement that the US would withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change by keeping average global temperature rises to within 2°C of pre-industrial levels – an agreement which has been signed by every other country.

Hawaii was the first state to pledge to go carbon neutral, aiming to do so by 2045.

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