California’s role in the US INDCs

Lima’s “Call for Climate Action,” as the COP20/CMP10 decisions have been termed, is one for the 196 UNFCCC state parties to heed when preparing their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) before next December’s COP21. Given that only sovereign countries may be parties to treaties like the UNFCCC, and that most of them rely on a centralized government model of governance, COP discussions on climate policy typically occur between national capitols. Even with the expanded recognition of subnational governments that took root at COP19, this continues to be the case.

jerry brownClearly Governor Jerry Brown didn’t get this jurisdictional memo. Yesterday, in a speech to inaugurate his final term as California’s governor, he called for “a bold energy plan” (according to the NYT) that would reduce the state’s energy consumption beyond its already ambitious 2020 goals. Building on AB32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas emission statute enacted in 2006 when federal climate change regulation was at a low, Brown proposes three new state energy goals:

  1. sourcing 50% of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030;
  2. reducing gas consumption by cars and trucks by as much as 50% (via electric cars, thus reverting back to the importance of #1); and
  3. doubling new building energy efficiency.

To meet them, the Governor listed a number of specific strategies in his speech, including more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, increased micro-grids, an “energy imbalance market,” improved battery storage, full integration of information technology and electrical distribution, and adding millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

As Governor Brown urged in his speech, “Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels. This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.” (On the catastrophic reference, see the NYT’s embedded video on drought in CA.)

Now that’s a call to action.  And one that will certainly help the Obama Administration make good on its proposed INDC pledges post COP19, recent announcement about joint China-US reductions, and use of national executive authority to achieve them — at a time when the incoming Republican Senate and House are challenging all of the above (despite a recent poll that found more than two-thirds of likely 2016 voters support the EPA’s power plant rule, including 87% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans).