As the federal government finally makes significant moves to tackle climate change policy on a national level, it would be well advised to take a page from California’s book, according to Mary Nichols, chair of the California Resources Board. As Nichols noted to a roomful of students, entrepreneurs and policymakers gathered at UC Berkeley on Monday morning, the state has had good success implementing climate change policies, among them AB 32, which seeks to reduce the state’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
“We know investing in clean technology can have a positive impact,” said Nichols, who pointed out that the implementation of energy efficiency technologies in California over the past three decades has resulted in the creation of some 1.5 m
billion jobs and the saving of $56 billion in electricity costs — money that was then invested elsewhere in the state, further driving its economy forward.
To be sure, Nichols’s job description includes touting California’s energy programs. But she isn’t just blowing smoke, and in fact the federal government is already looking closely at California’s emissions policies. President Obama recently directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California’s long-contested waiver that will allow it to enforce stricter automobile-emission standards. Nichols was quick to point out Obama’s praise of California’s emissions policy in his press conference on the EPA directive.
Nichols insisted that other California policies in the works would continue to make the state a leader. Those include working on a low carbon fuel standard, allowing for competition in electricity and fuel markets, setting an aggressive renewable portfolio standard for a percentage of clean power, putting a cap on emissions, and implementing tools to reverse unsustainable sprawl of development.
Beyond outlining California’s lessons, Nichols also have a couple of requests for the folks back in D.C., such as the creation of a central repository for emissions data. And Nichols did applaud one federal policy: the federal Clean Air Act, which she said has been successful in achieving its goals. In fact, her organization would like to see it be used as the basis for all emissions legislation, she said.