Cap and Trade: California’s Answer to Climate Change

Sitting in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, Treasure Island boasts some of the most beautiful and unique views in the region. Yet in 50 years, those stunning vistas could be in peril.

Made up of landfill, Treasure Island is particularly prone to the dangers of rising sea levels brought on by climate change. It made sense that the island served as the setting for a signing ceremony extending California’s landmark cap-and-trade legislation.

Cap-and-trade requires California companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions, providing an incentive for corporations to pursue cleaner energy initiatives. When companies do purchase cap-and-trade permits, that revenue is directed toward affordable housing projects and sustainable transportation programs.

On Treasure Island, we are set to build 8,000 new homes, of which 25 percent will be affordable, and the residents will rely heavily on a sustainable public transit network. Those initiatives are exactly the kind of programs that cap-and-trade revenue supports.

The legislation signed on July 25 by Governor Jerry Brown will lengthen the cap-and-trade program an additional 10 years, carrying it through 2030. I joined Governor Brown for the event, which also included former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the original legislation, and State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, who authored the bill to extend the program.

California was at the forefront of this issue in 2006, when California’s first cap-and-trade bill was signed (also on Treasure Island.) We are fortunate to have state leaders taking such a strong position on climate protection, but we also know that local action is necessary to stem the harmful effects of dirty energy.

In San Francisco, we are expanding our clean energy program to the point where we anticipate the entire City achieving 50 percent renewable energy status by 2020. San Francisco is sending a strong signal that reducing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels and transitioning to cleaner energy is the right path forward.

Earlier this year, we announced that San Francisco’s 2015 greenhouse gas emission levels are 28 percent lower than our 1990 levels, outpacing the City’s goal of a 25 percent reduction by 2017. That 28 percent reduction is equivalent to taking 380,000 cars off the road. At our current pace, San Francisco remains well on the way to our goal of reducing emission 40 percent by 2025.

We are carrying out these measures while debunking the myth that a strong economy and strong environmental policies are mutually exclusive. As we were reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent, our City’s population increased by 19 percent and our economy grew by 78 percent.

And we are listening to the needs of our residents. A recent survey showed that just 22 percent of Californians approve of the federal government’s environmental policies.

Californians expect more of out of their government. They want their local and state leaders to adopt policies that protect families from the threats of climate change. With our ambitious environmental agenda, we are letting them know their voices are being heard.