California Governor Gavin Newsom packed his bags and his ambitions on Monday and flew to Chinese provinces on a week-long mission to negotiate climate agreements.
Last month, he was the only American invited to address the United Nations about climate change, where he criticized the fossil fuel industry for decades of “deception and denial.”
He has signed a number of laws and regulations to transition the nation’s most populous state away from fossil fuels, including a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and an order to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045. Is included. It also wants to end oil drilling in its major oil-producing state by 2045.
The two-term Democratic governor wants California to set an aggressive pace for the nation and the world — because time is running out to deeply cut the carbon emissions that are dangerously warming the planet. Mr Newsom’s bold steps on climate have raised his national profile, as he is widely believed to be preparing for a run for the White House in 2028.
“We move the needle for the country and, as a result, for the world,” Mr. Newsom said in a telephone interview from Hong Kong on Sunday night. “And that’s deep.”
Critics have warned that some of Mr. Newsom’s climate policies are so ambitious as to be unrealistic, making them impossible to implement on a national or global scale. Worse, they say, his continued pursuit of his goals could disrupt California’s energy supply, drive up electricity rates and devastate communities dependent on gas and oil drilling.
“The Newsom administration is further emphasizing an already existing climate policy process,” said David Victor, co-director of the Deep Decarbonization Initiative at the University of California San Diego. “The challenge is, how fast can you push the system until it breaks?”
Mr. Newsom said technological changes in the way the United States produces and uses energy are occurring so rapidly that setting ambitious targets makes sense. “The breakthroughs coming in the next few years will break the limited paradigm of thinking we have today,” he said. “We have proven time and again that through policy we can accelerate innovation.”
In China this week, Mr. Newsom plans to sign five agreements with leaders of Chinese provinces, partly aimed at exporting some of California’s climate policies and technologies.
Democratic pollster and political strategist Celinda Lake said Mr. Newsom’s posture as a climate warrior will help him in 2028, when Gen Z and millennial voters will dominate the electorate.
“The 2028 president will have a base among young voters and they will want to see him in the trenches of the issues they care about — if he makes it work,” Ms. Lake said.
Many of Mr. Newsom’s constituents see his enthusiasm as an appropriate response to the wildfires, hurricanes and drought that have ravaged the state and been worsened by climate change. A February poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that three out of four Californians think immediate action is necessary to combat the impacts of climate change.
But Vince Fong, a Republican state Assemblyman from Kern County, where the state’s oil industry is located, said Mr. Newsom is moving forward with high-level plans to cut emissions and end drilling. Not paying attention to how to manage the economic fallout. ,
“Governor Newsom is very good at political rhetoric to denigrate energy production,” Mr. Fong said. “But his policies are not based on economic reality.”
Mr. Newsom joins previous California governors who led the state on the climate policy front, including Jerry Brown, a Democrat who promoted rooftop solar energy and later President Xi Jinping, and Arnold Traveled to China to talk climate policy with. schwarzeneggerA Republican who helped draft the nation’s first major legislation to require reductions in greenhouse gases and developed tailpipe emissions rules that became a national model.
But Mr. Newsom, 56, has taken charge of the climate and made it his own. On top of orders to eliminate emissions and force the sale of electric vehicles, he pushed California legislators to approve a record $52 billion in climate spending. Earlier this month, he signed the first law in the country to require major companies to publicly disclose all their greenhouse emissions.
And his administration is suing the world’s largest oil companies over climate harms linked to their products. Furthermore, California has approximately Stopped issuing new permits for oil and gas drilling, and it has created a agency To monitor oil companies for price gouging or other illegal activities.
The governor says California helped give birth to the American oil industry in the 19th century, but he sees no place for it now.
University of California, Santa Barbara professor Ranjit Deshmukh, a co-author, said oil drilling accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and about 2 percent of its employment. paper On the economic impacts of California’s decarbonization policies. Production peaked in 1985.
Mr. Deshmukh said much of the state would be unaffected if oil drilling stopped, but it would devastate Kern County, where California’s fossil fuel industry is concentrated.
Chad Hathaway, who owns a 27-employee oil company in the county, feels his community doesn’t matter to Mr. Newsom. “In his mind, it seems like we’re the only people he can afford to lose,” said Mr. Hathaway, a fifth-generation Californian.
“He treats us like we’re some evil empire,” he said. “I’m concerned about my employees, I’m concerned about my family, I’m concerned about all the investments we’ve made in California over 20 years.”
Mr. Newsom said his administration is helping to transform Kern County into a new economy and pointed out that the state has invested $120 million to plug thousands of its abandoned oil wells. “These are great jobs,” he said. “These are the same workers, the same skills.” Kern County is also home to a booming solar industry, he said.
The governor has little sympathy for the multinational oil companies he is suing, which includes Chevron, which is headquartered in his state.
“I’ve done that to those guys,” Mr. Newsom said of the oil companies. “They knew more than the rest of us what kind of havoc their product was causing. They claim climate change is now real, but they are not investing in solutions. We are the only ones putting money in to help make the change. They are not doing anything bad.”
“Yes, I use their product,” he said. “And yes, I took off from here. And yes, I’m in a car that uses gas. I am not a fool. I am not naive. I didn’t walk here in my organic moccasins. But nor am I naïve about their deception and their denial as a result of further delay and how it is actually accelerating the destruction of our planet.
A Chevron spokesman declined to respond to Mr. Newsom’s criticisms and dismissed the state’s lawsuit. Spokesman Bill Turan Jr. said, “Climate change is a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians.”
For all the governor’s climate ambitions, California is Not on track to meet its own 2030 Emission reduction target
“Okay, we have work to do,” Mr. Newsom said on Sunday. “The work is exciting. you is not seen nothing yet. We got work to do and we repeat it every year.”
After the California legislature passed a landmark bill last month requiring large companies to disclose all their greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Newsom added an unusual note to his signature, noting that the deadline ” Probably impossible” and asked the legislators to work on it. New law to amend this.
And in an acknowledgment that the state may not be able to produce renewable electricity fast enough to replace its aging polluting power sources, Mr. Newsom wants regulators to limit the life of Diablo Canyon, the state’s only nuclear power plant, to another 20 years. Increase for. The plant, which supplies about 9 percent of the state’s electricity without emitting greenhouse gases, is scheduled to close in 2025.
“I had never heard of the cleanup law before I was elected,” Mr. Fong said. “Their argument is, it will cost but we will clear it later. That’s not how you make economic and energy policy for 40 million people.
One area in which California is making headway in meeting its climate goals is the adoption of all-electric vehicles.
In the second quarter of 2023, 25 percent of new cars sold in the state were electric (compared with 7 percent nationally), putting California on track to meet Mr. Newsom’s order that by 2035, every car sold in the state will be electric. The new car will be electric.
Charging stations are moving even faster. The state has already met the Governor’s goal of installing 10,000 fast-charging public stations by 2025.
“California is blowing these targets out of the water,” said Sarah Rafalson, vice president of Oakland-based charging company EVgo, who credits Mr. Newsom for the work.
But as EV networks expand, utilities face a challenge: how to supply the additional electricity needed.
A Southern California Edison ReportOne of the state’s largest electric utilities, found that meeting Mr. Newsom’s climate mandate would increase electricity demand by more than 80 percent, primarily due to electric vehicles. This increased demand comes as utilities will need to sharply cut their greenhouse emissions.
To meet Mr. Newsom’s climate goals, Southern California Edison will need to invest heavily in wind and solar power, as well as erect transmission lines and towers four times faster than now and build smaller distribution lines. Will have to be made 10 times faster. And it would need to keep that momentum going for 20 years — at a cost of more than $370 billion.
“We are rebuilding the aircraft while flying them,” said Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison.
And even this will not be enough, he said. To keep the lights on and the cars charged, the company would have to continue running its existing fossil fuel-powered plants, but equip them with expensive technology designed to capture carbon emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. . That budding technology is not yet in commercial use and no power plants in California currently use it.
“It is not that the emperor has no clothes, but the clothes are very thin,” Mr. Pizarro said.
Some California companies say that while they find Newsom’s climate order burdensome, they also see it as inevitable.
Hamid Moghadam, CEO of Prologis, a San Francisco-based company that builds and leases warehouses for products ordered online from retailers like Home Depot.
Said their global business must comply with 19 California climate rules, ranging from rules limiting carbon dioxide emitted from cement manufacturing to a ban on emissions from delivery trucks. He said the rules could add about 6 percent to project costs. “This increases the cost of building, leasing and maintaining warehouses, which increases costs to consumers.”
Still, he said, “Smart companies are seeing climate as a business opportunity and instead of fighting it, visionary companies that have the capital are embracing it. Twenty years from now what we’re doing today in California Will see him as a role model.”