A sustainable world can start in California

Since taking office, President Trump has overturned or announced his intention to overturn 52 critical environmental rules. He hasn’t even been President for 52 weeks. (I know…)

Congressional Republicans have signed off on Trump picks to lead the Energy Department, Interior Department, and Environmental Protection Agency, each of whom is openly antagonistic toward the mission of the agencies they run. Collectively, these industry shills are moving at breakneck pace to reverse the great progress achieved by the environmental movement.

When President Trump turned his back on the future and pulled out of the Paris Climate deal, Governor Brown pulled out of his driveway, headed straight for the airport to step into the vacuum, and step onto the international stage. In doing so, Governor Brown has yet again proven a truth about our great state: California does not have to wait for Washington to be a global leader on any issue — and certainly not when it comes to energy, the environment and the economy.

Combating Climate Change

As Mayor, we made San Francisco one of the most environmentally friendly cities on earth, leading the nation in development of renewable energy, promoting environmental justice and forging a new sustainable path towards job creation and economic growth. We advanced an aggressive Climate Action Plan to reduce citywide carbon emissions, set a 100% renewable portfolio for San Francisco, dramatically expanded solar energy development in the city, and implemented stringent green building standards. On top of all of that, we passed the nation’s first mandatory composting legislation, and the nation’s first plastic bag and Styrofoam bans.

At the state level, thanks to the leadership of Governor Brown, the state’s utility companies are poised to meet the requirement that they get 50% of their electricity from renewable sources ten years early.

Where do we go from here?

On day one, I will issue a directive putting California on a clear path to 100% renewable energy. It’s achievable and it’s necessary. Frankly, I think we can surpass our 100% goal by positioning California as a net exporter of energy to other states and nations. It’s a money maker for us and the natural next step in our global leadership — a classic example of California innovation.

Under the leadership of the state’s Lands Commission, which I chair, California is reducing its reliance on nuclear and offshore oil energy and moving toward safer, cleaner, and greener alternatives. We must continue diversifying our energy supply — that means increasing our output of solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and ocean-based energy, all the while improving our energy efficiency through stronger green building standards, construction codes, and efficiency standards for electronics and appliances.

As Governor, I will launch CARPA-E, the California Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, modeled after the federal agencies that brought us the Internet and other technological advances. We can attract the best and brightest minds in the world into public service to help us achieve our innovation agenda, most of whom just happen to live right here in California.

Moreover, we must advance the Governor’s goal of regionalizing our energy grid and making it more flexible. We can meet the design challenge of building a grid that integrates renewables and electrifies transportation while maintaining reliability. Let’s harness the ingenuity of Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach, and utilize California technology to create a 21st century grid capable of powering the world’s sixth largest economy.

Meeting our ambitious climate goals will also require an overhaul of the transportation sector, which accounts for 39 percent of California’s carbon emissions, representing the state’s single largest source of air pollution.

As Mayor of San Francisco, I pressed for regional collaboration to implement Electric Vehicle Corridors, secured millions of dollars in grant funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and increased use of alternative fuels in public transit and city fleets.

  • As a major hub for trans-pacific trade, we must design a visionary goods movement strategy that modernizes our ports, improves efficiency, electrifies our transit system, bolsters economic productivity — and cleans our air.
  • At the same time Trump is rolling back federal fuel efficiency standards, Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, believes the future is “all-electric”. California has already set a goal of 4 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030, a far cry from the 315,000 currently on the road. I want to put us on the fast track starting with a goal of zero diesel pollution by 2030. Diesel is a hat trick pollutant. It needs to go. But instead of driving jobs out of the state, we need to replace diesel with zero pollution clean technology like hydrogen fuel cells and Electric Vehicles.

California is the epicenter of these technologies and consumers want to make these choices. Now it’s on us to craft the financial incentives and build the infrastructure to get us there, especially within California’s too-often ignored low-income and minority communities, where the impacts of pollution are felt the most. China, France, India and Germany are moving in the same direction and market conditions will work in tandem to help us meet our goals.

Protecting Public Lands

We have also experienced a historic disinvestment in our parks. As I watch Trump roll back protections for public lands, I’m more determined than ever to make our public places more accessible for all Californians. As Governor, I will invest in our parks, and I’ll work with the California Conservation Corps, CalVolunteers and others to connect folks with their public spaces. But let’s start now: join me in voting yes on the parks and water bond that the Governor and Legislature put on the ballot, which places appropriate emphasis on urban parks that serve underserved communities.

Preserving Clean Air and Clean Water

Now, here’s what shocks the conscience. Upwards of a million people in California live in homes with contaminated drinking water, and it’s not lost on me that they tend to be poor, and heavily Latino or African American. It’s an embarrassment that so many of our fellow Californians go home at night and can’t drink safely from the faucet or bathe their kids in clean water — and yet still pay their utility bills. We’re so much better than this. As Governor, I’ll direct the California State Water Resources Control Board to rectify this injustice and work with the Legislature to solve this moral crisis.

I’ll devote equal attention to the water quality along our beautiful coast. From my perch on the State Lands Commission, I made it crystal clear that California’s door is closed to President Trump’s Pacific oil and gas drilling, and as a candidate for Governor, I proudly signed the “No Fossil Fuel Money” pledge refusing to accept contributions from the oil industry. New oil and gas development in the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf threatens the environment, delays the nation’s movement toward renewable energy development, contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions, and adversely affects tourism and fisheries.

I also oppose fracking and other unsafe oil operations and I am committed to the highest standards of public transparency, public health, and public safety above all else. I believe that fracking poses potentially significant health and environmental risks that need to be studied, monitored, and tested for aggressively, and I’ll fight efforts by the oil and gas industry to escape the reach of state and federal regulators. The Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 is forever etched into California consciousness. We’re not returning to those days.

California has 3,427 miles of exquisite ocean shoreline. Maybe that’s why we love our beaches so much and yet, coastal water quality is deteriorating, particularly in Southern California. Unsurprisingly, President Trump rolled back the Clean Water Rule, which would have strengthened protections from waterways that lead to the Pacific. As Governor, I will strengthen state enforcement to crack down against those that pollute our rivers, lakes and ocean, and in doing so, protect the interests of our coastal fishing industry and everyday Californians who flock to the beach for recreational purposes.

Ensuring Environmental Justice

As we decarbonize our economy, I will consider it a personal failure unless we identify new ways to benefit all communities. Any shift to renewable energy must be leveraged to build economic opportunity. I know it’s possible because we did it in San Francisco: we shut down the old, dirty Hunter’s Point Power Plant and when we built a new state-of-the-art recycling facility, we required that first priority for jobs went to local residents.

Despite our state’s environmental leadership, too many communities in California claim the unfortunate distinction of having some of the worst air quality in the nation. We can’t rest on our laurels. As Governor, I will safeguard the percentage of cap and trade dollars earmarked for communities that have borne the burden of environmental injustice. I will ensure that the polluter pays, by instructing CalEPA and relevant agencies to conduct a review of enforcement programs, and empowering folks on the ground to supplement our efforts. And I’ll double down on the production of organic and sustainable food, and promote food security, particularly in low-income communities and, disproportionately, communities of color that lack access to healthy choices. It’s ironic and bizarre that the San Joaquin Valley grows the food for the nation but poor communities there do not have an adequate supply of their own.

Moral of the story: I will never forget the importance of listening to impacted communities. Sacramento politicians don’t always have the answers, so let’s listen to and learn from one another to chart a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future for our beautiful state.

Our state sits at the greatest intersection of innovation, investment, opportunity and diversity the world has ever known, with a government that rewards risk and transforms the politically impossible into the politically inevitable. While Trump turns back the clock on climate change, public lands, clean air and clean water, and environmental justice, California is uniquely positioned to capture the future and show the world that environmental protection and job creation go hand-in-hand.

Husband & father. Former SF mayor & 49th Lt. Gov. of California. Dedicated to equal rights & the economic recovery of California. Author of Citizenville.