California Legislature Passes Historic Climate Bill

California Legislature Passes Historic Climate Bill

California just made climate history once again. Late Friday night, California lawmakers took the final vote on a major climate change bill SB 350 – and it passed.

In other words, California just passed the boldest, farthest reaching climate change legislation in the nation. SB 350 passed thanks to the tremendous outpouring of grassroots support and activism.

But let me clear up something important. Our victory on SB 350 is a major political achievement for the climate movement, but as the final outcome for this legislative year? It’s not good enough. Lawmakers had the chance to pass an even stronger version of SB 350, but they let the oil industry strip the original bill of its most powerful language requiring aggressive reductions in petroleum use throughout the state. And on another major climate change bill (SB 32, Pavley), lawmakers wavered and stalled while oil industry lobbyists ran down the clock. Now the legislature is adjourned, and SB 32 isn’t going anywhere until January.

We won today, but we’re not satisfied. Overall, the legislature fell short of our aim – and far short of what scientists say is necessary to slow climate change and protect our communities from harmful impacts. Even while we celebrate the significance of our accomplishments, we’re already rolling out our fall-recess campaign to target lawmakers in their home districts and hold them publicly accountable for their record on climate change. We’re already fighting the next battle against Big Oil, and we can’t win without the support of climate change activists.

In this historic moment, advocates for clean air and clean energy can make a big difference by chipping in a few dollars toward to the new Climate Victory Challenge. >>

Big Oil waged a brutal battle against our top-priority bills, and nobody is walking away from this year’s legislative session without some bruises. With your help on SB 350, we earned real progress on climate change that will make a real difference in the lives of Californians across the state.

Let’s back up for a moment and review what happened leading up to the final vote on climate change legislation. After debating late into the night on the last day of the session, members of the California Legislature sent to the governor’s desk a historic climate change bill, SB 350, that will increase our use of renewable energy to 50 percent and double energy efficiency in our buildings in the next 15 years. This landmark bill, authored by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, keeps California firmly in a place of national and global leadership in our commitment to ending our addiction to dirty fossil fuels while cleaning the air in our communities and protecting our families from the threat of climate change.

A diverse coalition of environmental and equity organizations, public health leaders, labor groups, businesses, consumers, and faith leaders worked all year in order to pass SB 350, knowing that keeping our state on the path to improved public health, a strong economy, and cleaner air was critical to inspiring the rest of the country and the world to follow in California’s footsteps. CLCV members sent tens of thousands of messages to their lawmakers starting back in January this year, and our members kept up a constant drumbeat of grassroots support for new climate change legislation that even the most oil-friendly lawmakers couldn’t ignore.

Right until the last minutes before the final vote, Big Oil and their front groups tried to deceive lawmakers and the public with a multi-million dollar campaign of lies that landed in mailboxes, inboxes, and on TV and radio throughout California. In order to get the votes needed to preserve two major components of the bill, legislative leaders agreed to remove a third important component from SB 350; in the end, big polluters’ influence resulted in abandoning the goal of reducing California’s petroleum usage by 50% in the next 15 years.

Additionally, the author of another critical climate proposal, environmental champion Senator Fran Pavley, made the tough decision to hold her greenhouse gas emission-cutting proposal (SB 32) until next year because too many polluter-friendly members of the Assembly — including a group of Democrats led by Assemblyman Henry Perea—withheld support.

Despite the last-minute change, SB 350 will take its rightful place on the list of historic California climate and clean energy bills. The bill commits California to increasing our use of renewable energy to 50% by 2030 and to doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings during that same aggressive timeline. SB 350 sets a new high bar for the global climate movement, and challenges the rest of the nation and the world to match our impressive progress in ditching dirty energy in favor of protecting our communities, cleaning our air, and preserving our planet.

As someone who has spent my entire life fighting to protect the air we breathe and the climate we all depend on, I’ve gone through more than my fair share of frustrating legislative sessions with complicated outcomes – and I’ve learned that the biggest victories and the worst setbacks tend to come along at the same time. Environmental activists tend to focus on the setbacks so much that we don’t recognize our accomplishments until long after the moment’s passed.

This is one of those moments, and I don’t want anyone who worked hard to pass bold climate proposals forget for a second the fact that we accomplished something extraordinary. We'll keep fighting to do even more, but today, we're celebrating the addition of SB 350 to the list of of California's most important climate achievements.

Posted on September 11, 2015 in Groundswell Blog.

Building Democracy. Electing Environmental Champions. Protecting Our Future.

We are California's voice, statewide and nationally, for bold climate action. We elect and cultivate environmental champions, turn election victories into policy wins, hold our lawmakers accountable, and build political power to transform our political system and achieve climate justice.

Learn More about our work