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As Trump Withdraws from Paris Climate Accord, California Vows 100 Percent Clean Energy by 2045

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As President Trump announced the United States will pull out of the Paris climate agreement, California’s state Senate has passed legislation to put the state on a path to 100 percent clean renewable energy by the year 2045. California Governor Jerry Brown is in China to lead a conference of states and other "subnational" actors making voluntary commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It is one of dozens of state and local governments committing to fight climate change, and as the state with the world’s sixth largest economy, California is often cited by analysts as a model for its ambitious environmental policy. Nearly 200 U.S. mayors have also signed on to an agreement to uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We are joined by Kevin de León, president pro tem of the California state Senate.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show in California, where the state Senate just passed legislation to put the state on a path to 100 percent clean renewable energy by the year 2045. California is just one of dozens of state and local governments committing to fight climate change after President Trump announced Thursday the country will pull out of the Paris climate agreement. This comes after the environmental ministers of Canada and Mexico visited San Francisco in April to sign a global pact that was drafted largely by California to lower planet-warming greenhouse pollution.

AMY GOODMAN: Nearly 200 U.S. mayors have signed on to an agreement to uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. As a state with the world’s sixth largest economy, analysts often cite California as a model for its ambitious environmental policy.

For more, we’re going right to the state capital of California, Sacramento, where we’re joined by Kevin de León, president pro tem of the California state Senate.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk first about President Trump pulling out, pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accord, and then what you’re doing about it.

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Well, good morning, Amy, and good morning, Nermeen.

I can say this. This is our reality. We’re not going to allow one huge, potentially catastrophic decision by the president to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, our scientific advancement, our economic output, as well as our sense of global responsibility. We refuse to go back and recede. So we’re moving forward. We’re forging ahead with 100 percent clean energy, Senate Bill 100. It’s the most far-reaching, ambitious proposal of its kind in the nation, in the entire world.

We can’t retreat now, given the fact that the president has demonstrated and shown to the world that he has actually served the climate leadership mantle directly to the Chinese, and obviously the Chinese are more than happy to assume the role to be the world leader when it comes to climate energy. So we’re moving forward with 100 percent clean energy. We’ll generate all of our energy from clean energy, renewable sources, whether it’s wind, solar or geothermal. It’s a huge step forward. But we have no choice, and we have to move forward, if in fact we’re going to continue to grow our economy.

One point I want to make especially is, this is not just about the environment. This is about the economy, because we have created upwards up to 500,000 new jobs in the clean energy space. And to put this in context for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, there are 10 times more jobs in California in the clean energy space than there are in the coal mining industry in all of America.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, California has the world’s sixth largest economy. Could you talk about what you expect the effect of California’s climate agenda to be on the issue of climate change, also globally and locally, in California and in the United States?

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Well, we have successfully delinked and decoupled carbon from GDP. What that means is that we are 39 percent less carbon-intensive as a state since 1990 levels, and we have created upwards up to 500,000 jobs to become the sixth largest economy in the world. There are only five larger economies in the world than that of California. But we have done so by sending the right market signals that have attracted the necessary capital, that have created the technologies that have helped us meet our ambitious target goals. It’s through good public policy. It’s through intentionality and a sense of purpose, wanting to decarbonize our economy, create jobs, grow our economy, put people to work, at the same time clean our air so our children can breathe cleaner air. We do believe strongly that it’s a model not just for the rest of the nation and hemispherically, but also for the rest of the entire world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about your governor, Governor Brown’s trip to China and also what it means for Trump to pull out of the climate accord? If California is just moving forward, what difference did this climate accord mean? How is it going to set you back? Will they prevent you from carrying forward on what you want to do?

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: Well, Governor Brown right now, as we speak, is in China meeting with leaders throughout the country. Secondly, this could be potentially catastrophic for the United States’s economy. It would be a big blow to our jobs. That’s why we need to forge ahead sooner rather than later.

And quite frankly, as a subnational, but with with the sixth largest economy in the world, it’s our responsibility, both legally as well as morally and scientifically, to engage with other subnationals throughout the country, as well as throughout the world, as well as other national governments, whether it be Canada, our friend to the north, or our friend to the south, Mexico, as well as Emmanuel Macron from France, who perhaps, shortly, will be coming to the United States and specifically to the state of California. So, it is incumbent on us to really engage other subnationals, other provinces, as well as other national governments, to forge ahead, with or without Washington.

And I want to be very clear about something, Amy, is: We are going to move forward, with or without Donald Trump. He cannot stop the momentum that’s happening in California. And quite frankly, he can’t halt the global momentum happening right now with regards to climate policies.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, several senators in—state senators in California have been asking Governor Brown to convene a climate summit, partnering with Mexico and Canada. Could you talk about what you think such a summit would achieve and whether Brown is likely to grant this request?

SEN. KEVIN DE LEÓN: I think this is quite possible. You know, we’ve spoken. We, in fact, just recently, just sometime last week, we had a private conversation about convening like-minded nations as well as provinces and subnationals, again, like our friend to the north and our friend to the south, coming together, in light of the decision that President Trump has just made recently, and forge our minds together, share technologies, share our climate leadership and export it across the world.

And the bottom line is this, is we, as a state, will step up at the international level, if in fact Washington steps down. And it looks like they are stepping down, so we will move forward ahead. It is really important that we forge ahead with other like-minded countries and subnationals, not just hemispherically but throughout the world, whether it is in Pacific—the Pacific Rim, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in Europe, Eastern Europe. We need to move forward, because we have no other choice, because this is not a scientific issue. All the Nobel Prize winners, all of the climate science—scientific researchers have clearly said this is not sustainable. This is a political issue. It is a leadership issue. And it is a lack of leadership from Washington. So we have no other choice but, rather, to step up and move forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin de León, we want to thank you for being with us, speaking to us from Sacramento, as your governor, Governor Brown, is in China. Kevin de León is president pro tem of the California state Senate.

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