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California governor signs landmark climate and clean energy bills into law

California Governor Jerry Brown had threatened to take the measure directly to voters via ballot initiative as he approaches the end of his fourth and final term, but in the end, Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) was approved by the California legislature on August 25.

Governor Brown signed the bill into law last Thursday.

SB 32 extends the climate targets adopted by California under Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which required California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The state is easily on pace to meet those targets, which has been hailed as not just good news for the climate but for California’s economy, as well. According to a recent report, AB 32 spurred developments that contributed $48 billion to California’s economy and created 500,000 jobs over the past decade.

SB 32 and a second, related bill that Brown signed into law last week, Assembly Bill 197 (AB 197), require the state to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The new laws will also require California officials to create a committee to oversee the state’s climate programs and will prod regulators to take stronger action to cut pollution from refineries and other facilities, especially in low-income and minority communities.

“Climate change is real, and knowing that, California is taking action,” Governor Brown said in a statement. “SB 32 and AB 197 are far-reaching moves that continue California on its path of vast innovation and environmental resilience.”

State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), who wrote AB 197, said that with the two new laws, California’s approach to tackling climate change would now shift to focus more on mitigating the impacts of global warming on local communities. “Our climate change policies, I think today and by the signing of these two bills, represent a turning of the page as it relates to focusing on people,” Garcia told the LA Times.

A broad range of environmental, public health, community-based, faith-based, and business groups hailed the passage of the new laws.

Timothy O’Connor, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that California, the world’s sixth-largest economy, had already achieved a feat some had feared was impossible by demonstrating that falling greenhouse gas emissions can go hand-in-hand with economic growth.

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