We have a moral and practical responsibility to reach net zero carbon emissions by or before 2050.
By Richard Bloom, Special to CalMatters
Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica, represents the 50th Assembly District.
Countries across the world are coming together in Glasgow for COP26 to discuss how the world will address our climate crisis. I have joined with 537 legislators from 47 states and territories calling on the federal government to raise our ambition and strengthen our national climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The time for action is now, and as the largest historical contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the United States has a moral and practical responsibility to reach net zero emissions by or before 2050.
As a state legislator, I see firsthand the impacts of climate change in California. Across the country this year, we have seen historic damages from hurricanes and wildfires, droughts and flooding, heat waves and cold snaps.
In California, we are facing a nearly year-round threat of wildfires that has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change. This year, we are entering a new drought, which will only increase the threat of these fires. As a coastal state, California is already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise and ocean acidification, which is contributing to coastal erosion and the decimation of California’s bull kelp forests, a keystone species, which has declined by as much as 95% in some parts of the state. California cities, rural areas, agricultural lands, forests and other areas face a variety of climate-induced challenges: extreme heat, floods, landslides, erosion and drought.
Our addiction to oil and coal and release of methane have long been known as the driver of greenhouse gas emissions underlying the climate crisis. But, the earth is also challenged by so much other pollution that is their byproduct: ubiquitous plastics and microplastics accumulate in our environment and, as occurred in Orange County on Oct. 2 oil spills all too often wreak havoc.
That’s why California made historic investments to address climate change through this year’s budget. The budget included billions for a climate resiliency package that provides funding to plan for regional adaptation investments, plant trees to reduce extreme heat and improve air quality, build healthy and sustainable communities, address sea level rise, and help the state reach its goal to conserve at least 30% of its land and coastal waters by 2030.
The budget also included a $1.5 billion investment in wildfire prevention and forest health to protect our communities and wildlands from the threat of catastrophic wildfires that will continue to increase in severity and destruction due to climate change. We also invested more than $4 billion to respond to the drought and invest in greater water resiliency with funding for water recycling, sustainable groundwater management, and removing toxics from our waterways and drinking water.
California isn’t acting alone. States across the country have been at the forefront of climate action while building the new clean energy economy and addressing systemic inequities. While state action is crucial, we can’t do this alone. States rely on the federal government to serve as a strong baseline for climate action. And our bold steps can serve as a roadmap for federal action.
For example, more than two-thirds of U.S. states and territories have some form of Renewable Portfolio Standard or Clean Energy Standard, and more than a dozen have committed to 100% clean energy. States are transitioning fleets to zero-emissions vehicles, making buildings more energy efficient and protecting natural landscapes to enhance carbon sequestration.
Time and again, states continue to fill the void of climate action at the federal level. But in this critical moment, we must stand as united states. I am grateful to hear encouraging words and proposed policies from President Joe Biden and so many leaders across the nation. We must act together, with strong international, national and state action and take the steps that are needed to avoid further climate catastrophe.
That is why I encourage the president and the California congressional delegation to consider this your mandate from California. Match and enhance our ambition and dedication in every negotiation room. The U.S. government must lead by example in committing to and achieving full decarbonization, just as we strive to do so in our own states.