The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has signed an executive order calling for full carbon-neutrality across the economy by 2045. This effectively means that all sectors will have to decarbonise or find a way to offset emissions. The executive order comes after the state passed a bill, entitled SB 100, requiring for 100% of its electricity generation to come from carbon-free sources by 2045, joining Hawaii which passed similar legislation in 2015.
Analysts say the flexibility inherent in the aim for “carbon free sources” which includes large hydro, nuclear power and even natural gas with carbon capture storage, was instrumental to the bill’s success. It stipulates that 50% of its electricity must be renewable by 2026 and 60% renewable by 2030. Currently, according to the California Energy Commission, renewables make up 29% of the state's electricity grid, with large hydro at 14.72%.
Governor Brown’s executive order is not legally binding, so a number of laws will be needed to help make the executive order a reality, likely implying a lengthy political battle. However, this aspiration which is one of the boldest climate commitments in history, coupled with SB100, is a clear signal to companies and investors that the state is serious about its climate goals.
California’s, the world’s 5th largest economy, is ratcheting up its climate commitments despite the abdication of federal leadership on climate during the Trump era. It further shows how states are leading on climate issues and indeed policy-makers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C are also considering similar legislation to commit to 100% renewable electricity generation.
Does this further show how leadership on environmental issues is not dependent on centralised, top-heavy governance? Will we see other states or even countries follow California’s example? If so, what can be learned from the political craftsmanship that passed the bill and from the political battles that lie ahead?