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California Could Get A Green New Deal Of Its Own

Ezra David Romero / Capital Public Radio
Fourteen lawmakers introduced the California Green New Deal Act Monday at the state capital. The bill aims to accelerate environmental goals while improving the lives of every-day Californians.

California needs even more ambitious climate change goals. That's the message 14 progressive Democratic lawmakers unveiled Monday as part of the California Green New Deal Act, which they call bold and big.

“We’re not getting help from the federal administration, so it’s time for California to do what we do best: to step up and lead,” the bill’s lead author Oakland Democratic Assembly member Rob Bonta said. “Our children, Mother Nature, and the scientific community are all screaming at us to do more and to act faster.”

But the legislation isn’t just about accelerating the state’s climate goals amid the threat of drought, sea-level rise and deadly wildfires. He says it’s also about curbing climate change while addressing issues of equity – homelessness, poverty, a lack of affordable housing and income inequality.

“Our disadvantaged communities, our communities of color … may have been an afterthought with respect to the fossil fuel economy and the harm it caused for them,” Bonta said. “But they are in front of mind for us as we create solutions.”

The authors want to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate clean energy while slashing homelessness in half, increasing affordable housing and improving life for the poorest Californians — all by 2030. 

"Why aren't there people of color involved in this whole issue of the environment?” Democratic Assembly member Shirley Weber of San Diego said. “And this new deal says we have to be. We’re not an afterthought. We’re in the middle of it.”

The act is a spinoff of the national Green New Deal — sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — that failed to pass. Bonta says his bill takes the federal vision and applies it to California. 

Titled Assembly Bill 1839, it is a reintroduced bill from 2019. The California new deal still lacks specifics, such as how to reach its goals or how to pay for them, but Bonta says those details will be fleshed out during the legislative process. 

Republican lawmakers launched their own Green New Deal on Monday. It focuses on electrifying California’s commuter rail system, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting commute times.

If that bill, AB 1848, becomes law, it will provide $4 billion to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority to fund improvements to the Metrolink commuter rail system.

“California deserves immediate solutions, not baby steps,” said Republican Assembly member Tom Lackey. “This Republican New Deal is a commonsense solution to get cars off the road without spending new taxpayer dollars. High-speed rail is a disaster. It’s time to put that money towards projects that will actually do some good.”

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers want to speed up meeting targets that reduce California’s dependency on fossil fuels. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100 to phase out electricity sources that use carbon by 2045.

“We need a safe and healthy planet,” said Kathryn Phillips with Sierra Club California. “We also need healthy people, good homes, good jobs, good education. The Legislature is overtly acknowledging that everything is hitched to everything else.”

Copyright 2020 Capital Public Radio