In summary

The state has taken steps to mitigate climate change, but California is not doing enough to address this vital threat.

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By Matt Lundy, Special to CalMatters

Matt Lundy is a member of the Morgan Hill Climate Action Plan Working Group.

With some of the most aggressive climate goals in the country, along with a historic suite of climate legislation and investment passed into law, California has cemented itself as a leader in climate action.

Taking steps toward decarbonization, providing more clean energy and mitigating climate impacts are exemplary actions that other states should follow. However, California is, inarguably, still not doing enough to address the vital threat of climate change, a threat which, from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s own words, “imperils our way of life and the Golden State as we know it.”

We are in a bit of a bind. 

As a state, we recognize the severity of the threats that climate change poses, and this has motivated us to act to minimize them. We have lower emissions targets codified into law, dozens of California cities have developed Climate Action Plans, and plenty of decarbonization and electric infrastructure work is underway; we are clearly making strides in climate action. But the same recognition of climate severity that motivates us to act also reveals how our current actions fall short of what is necessary to meaningfully safeguard our state, our country and our world.

In reviewing some of our state’s actions, you can see how they miss the mark. California has legislated targets for emissions reductions by 2030; however, the state failed to pass legislation for future reductions beyond 2030, namely a target of net-zero emissions by 2045. 

There are quite a few Climate Action Plans guiding local action around the state. But many cities still lack such plans or any sort of climate framework to implement action. My hometown of Morgan Hill recently began development of its own Climate Action Plan, and only after a year-long campaigning effort led by local students. 

The state is consistently increasing renewable energy generation and clean energy infrastructure; but, in a world where countries such as Norway may reach 100% electric vehicle sales by 2022, these accomplishments just don’t shine as brightly.

Even in a Bay Area newspaper, editorials don’t focus on climate change as an immediate crisis. It is true that there is always plenty of pressing news, and climate change can often be hard to report and comment on locally because of its global nature. Nonetheless, such minimal coverage is not enough, especially when less than a third of California residents “hear about global warming in the media at least once a week.”

While we are making strides to mitigate and adapt to climate change, they are not enough when faced with the greatest threat of our age. Even worse, this failure to meet the mark comes as we are learning that current global efforts “fall well short of the emissions reductions that would be required to keep the door open to a Net Zero Emissions by 2050 trajectory,” according to the International Energy Agency’s 2021 report

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