California leads fight to curb climate change

Environmental Defense Fund is helping design and implement market-based policies that reduce energy use and cut pollution.

California's landmark policies

California provided an early proving ground for EDF's climate work: EDF co-sponsored California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), landmark legislation that set an absolute statewide limit on greenhouse gas emissions, and confirmed California's commitment to transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy.

Ten years after the passage of AB 32, California extended and strengthened the limit on greenhouse gas emissions with the passage of SB 32 in 2016. The state raised its goal for greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

California is now demonstrating impressive outcomes from the implementation of its climate policies. After the first decade of AB32 implementation, California's economy is growing while carbon pollution is declining. With innovative advancements in clean energy and energy efficiency, the state is well on the way to meeting its renewable energy target.

More recently, the state is seriously considering an opportunity to leverage its cap-and-trade program to protect rainforests around the world via its proposed California Tropical Forest Standard. The proposal sets out comprehensive requirements for large-scale programs to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation to be considered for crediting in future compliance markets worldwide.

What's next?

The successful outcomes of AB 32 has helped California fulfill a climate leadership role at the subnational level. California has a climate and energy portfolio with an excellent foundation from which to grow, aligning with climate policies around the world, which include:

  • Expanding the scope of its climate policies, the centerpiece of which is a cap-and-trade program that was extended until 2030.
  • Playing a climate leadership role. In September 2018, the state organized the Global Climate Action Summit, a gathering of world leaders representing governments, the private sector and indigenous people in what became a momentous occasion for subnational climate action, as major companies and jurisdictions lined up to declare or reiterate their climate commitments.
  • Fast-tracking emissions reductions to benefit public health through policies that work in concert with cap and trade.
  • Establishing complementary policies, incentives, and market rules that help the state transition to a low-carbon, clean energy economy through promoting renewables and modernizing and automating energy options in the state.
  • Partnering with other regions and stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, to share California's lessons and experiences from the state's early adoption of comprehensive climate and energy policies. Oregon, for example, is poised to model its carbon pricing program on California’s experience, and is interested in eventually linking to California’s carbon market.
  • California could take further action by codifying an ambitious midcentury greenhouse gas reduction target to ensure continued momentum on climate action.

California is leading the way

By taking bold action California is a leader on climate change. Hallmarks of its success are strong government leadership, accelerated investment in clean energy, and rapid growth of businesses that contribute to the advancement of the low-carbon economy.