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While certainly proud about this demonstration of resolve, we can’t afford to gloat. The task ahead for the planet as a whole is like pushing a boulder up a hill. What California’s resolve shows is that even if progress on climate change and clean energy is stymied at the level of global governance or the nation-state, the "sub-nationals" can still move ahead to build a critical mass from below.
In coordination with each other, the sub-nationals have made exciting progress without international agreement over the last year:
Here in California, we just broke ground on the world’s largest solar plant and the world’s largest wind farm, providing enough energy to power 740,000 homes. We have already approved solar plants that will provide 4,000 megawatts of energy.
In short, we are very well on the way to our goal of generating 33 percent of our energy from renewables by the year 2020. And that is not even including hydro. When you fly over California, you will see solar panels blanketing the state — on homes, prisons, hospitals and university buildings; on parking garages and warehouses.
Because of our environmental laws, California is now 40 percent more energy efficient per capita than the rest of the United States. More than one-third of the world’s clean-tech venture capital flows right here out of our state. We lead the nation in clean energy patents and clean energy businesses.
Clearly, we are at the opening stages of one of history’s great transitions – the transition to a new economic foundation for the 21st century and beyond that is free of fossil fuels.
The special interests that profit from fossil fuels will not wither away and die without a fight. They have deep pockets, and they will stop at nothing to disrupt and delay this historic transition.
California has stood up to them, and so have the other regions and localities I’ve catalogued here. No one has any doubts about the difficulty of this struggle. But one thing is certain: When change comes from people themselves, from the bottom up rather than from the global level down, it is true change. It will endure and can’t be reversed. That, in the end, is what makes transitions historic.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California.