WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) speaks during an event at the National Press Club April 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gov. Brown participated in a National Press Club Newsmaker Program to answer questions from members of the media. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong—Getty Images
By Katy Steinmetz
September 10, 2018

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that puts California – the world’s fifth largest economy if it was an independent country – on an ambitious path: using 100% clean electricity by 2045.

At a ceremony in Sacramento with legislative leaders, Brown touted the move as a lodestar for other governments and nations. “It’s not going to be easy and it will not be immediate, but it must be done,” Brown said of taking action to fight climate change. California, he said, is “doing stuff that the rest of the world, most of the world, is just hoping they might get to someday.”

The decision on SB100, introduced by state Sen. Kevin de León, comes as leaders from around the world are flocking to San Francisco for a sprawling climate change summit convened by Brown. The bold commitment for California, which was already working to produce 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, will provide a starting point for discussions about what types of actions local and regional governments should take to move the needle on environmental issues.

Under the new mandate, the state will eventually need to obtain all its electricity from sources such as wind, solar and hydropower. The measure also speeds up the renewable target already in place to 50% by 2025 and 60% by 2030.

California has long set goals that exceed federal standards when it comes to going green, and Brown has repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump’s inaction in that arena. As Brown prepared to sign the bill, he took a swipe at Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement, saying that California is “going to continue down that path.” Whatever “naysayers” might suggest about climate change, Brown said, “it is a real, present danger to California and the people of the world.”

De León, who is challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her seat in the U.S. Senate, was more direct. “Regardless of who occupies the White House, California will always lead on climate change,” he said. “Climate change is real. It’s here, it’s deadly and it’s extraordinarily expensive.”

It is not yet clear how California is going to meet the goal, a reality Brown also acknowledged at the ceremony. “Do we have a long way to go? Yes,” he said. “But you have to begin.” Signing the bill sends a signal to businesses that will likely prompt more investment in clean energy, and supporters hope that the commitment itself will spur innovation that helps California reach a carbon-free state over the next 27 years.

“This is the way to go,” Brown said, “and, sure enough, we’re going there.”

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