Polluting special interests have stifled progress in Copenhagen and Washington, but Californians and others around the globe have fought back. The shift to a new economy, based on a clean energy future, will come from the ground up. California shows this grassroots change is possible.
When the Copenhagen summit on climate change failed to reach agreement last December, many thought it was the beginning of the end for the fight against global warming. But I can report nearly a year later that the Green Revolution is alive and robust in states, provinces, and localities across the world, starting in California.
Over the last several months an epic battle has played out right here in our state leading up to the elections. It was a battle of the old economy versus the new; of David versus Goliath. The same set of polluting special interests that blocked international action in Copenhagen and strangled environmental legislation in Washington descended on California to try to overturn our landmark legislation – Assembly Bill 32 – to curb carbon emissions and promote a clean energy future.
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They rightly feared that, as the world’s eighth largest economy, California’s size and global presence has the clout to shape environmental change around the world. We may only be a little spot on the planet, but California, as a bellwether state and outpost of innovation, has the influence of an entire continent. They thought that if they could crush the green momentum in California like they did in Copenhagen and Washington, they could take any serious action on energy and the climate off the public agenda.
They spent scores of millions trying to convince Californians that a vote for the environment was a vote against jobs, that a clean energy future would just be too costly. Of course, they cared little about jobs and more about fattening their wallets by peddling dirty energy.
In the end, Californians rejected their cynical ploy by a huge 22 percent margin. Despite the propaganda, Californians were aware that green technology is the only area of our economy creating new jobs right now — 10 times more jobs since 2005 than any other sector.
And Californians know the true costs of dirty energy. They know that 19,000 people are dying in California alone because of smog-related illness, costing many millions in health care. They are burdened by the costs of wars to secure foreign energy supplies. No one wants to fight another war over oil. Enough already.
So Californians pushed back. We formed a tremendous bipartisan coalition – environmentalists, venture capitalists, health groups, businesses big and small, unions, farmers, Democrats, and Republicans. Everyone came together. Never before have voters had such a clear and distinct choice over whether to maintain the status quo of pollution and war or fight climate change and shift toward a new economy built on clean energy.
Californians lived up to their reputation of choosing the future over the past. We delivered a message that failed to arrive in Copenhagen or Washington: The environment is not for sale.