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California Gov. Jerry Brown speaking in 2012.  (Photo: NASA HQ PHOTO/flickr/cc)

California Governor Brown Issues Call for Climate Action to Prevent 'Potentially Catastrophic' Changes

State must dramatically increase renewables, slash automobile gas consumption, Brown said in inaugural address

Andrea Germanos

California Governor Jerry Brown began his record fourth term with a call for bold climate action, including boosting the amount of electricity generated by renewables to 50 percent.

"Neither California nor indeed the world itself can ignore the growing assault on the very systems of nature on which human beings and other forms of life depend," Brown said Monday in his inaugural address, according to his prepared remarks.

"Under laws that you have enacted, we are on track to meet our 2020 goal of one-third of our electricity from renewable energy. We lead the nation in energy efficiency, cleaner cars and energy storage." Yet, he said, the state has not gone far enough.

To keep global warming under the two-degree threshold, Brown said that California "must show the way. We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being."

To help achieve that, he called for three climate goals for the state to meet by 2030: increasing to 50 percent the amount of electricity derived from renewables; cutting gas use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; and doubling building efficiency and making heating fuels cleaner.

"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."

Environmental organization Earthjustice said Brown's plan should provide a model for the rest of the nation.

"We applaud Gov. Brown for working to secure a cleaner, brighter future for California and paving the way for the rest of the country and the world to follow," stated the group's Vice President, Abigail Dillen. "Weaning the state off dirty fossil fuels and embracing clean energy is the kind of immediate action we need to confront the worst effects of climate change. California has long been a leader in solar and wind power which has resulted in a robust and expanding renewable energy industry and drastic reductions in climate warming carbon emissions," she said.

Sierra Club California welcomed the news as well, saying it was cause for optimism.

"It remains to be seen exactly which policies will be employed, but the goals the governor set out for 2030 are a strong first step to getting us where we need to be to avoid a planet-scale catastrophe," stated Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California.

Other groups have said that the fate of Brown's environmental legacy lies in whether he will follow New York's suit and ban fracking in the state.

Writing at the San Jose Mercury News, Adam Scow, Director of Food & Water Watch California and Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, state: "Brown has tried to have it both ways. He allows oil companies to do more drilling and fracking while touting himself as a leader in the fight against global warming. More California communities are showing him that they will not accept this contradiction, which comes at the expense of their health and quality of life."

Brown "must put California's health and environment ahead of oil company profits" and ban fracking, they write.

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