Fighting Climate Change
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
When we woke up to a dark and hazy orange sky on Sept. 9, it was an eerie and alarming experience. It looked like a scene from a movie about a dystopian future, but there were no special effects involved. It was real.
Multiple wildfires have been burning up and down the West Coast for weeks on end, taking lives, destroying properties and choking millions with the smoke. In California, we broke the record for acres lost in one year by early September with more than two million acres burned. The previous record of 1.9 million acres, set in 2018, wasn’t reached until that November. As of this writing, five of this year’s blazes are among the six largest wildfires in our state’s modern history.
It is no question that climate change is playing a role in these record fires. Hotter temperatures and less rainfall dry out our forests, making them extremely flammable. As a state lawmaker, I feel an obligation to help address this crisis.
More than half of California’s greenhouse gasses are produced by the transportation sector, so a shift to zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs), including electric vehicles (EVs), would be the fastest way to make the biggest change. For years, I have championed legislation to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines in California. I believe that these bills paved the way for a groundbreaking executive order that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued last month: Beginning in 2035, every new vehicle sold in California must be zero-emissions. By 2045, this would include all other new vehicles, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
I’m reminded of this adage: as California goes, so goes the nation. As the fifth largest economy in the world, the sheer size of our market makes industries adjust their practices. Our current vehicle emissions standards – more stringent than the national benchmarks – are followed by 13 other states and the District of Columbia, so auto manufacturers have no choice but to comply.
I also have a bill awaiting the governor’s signature that would increase the number of EV charging stations. Assembly Bill (AB) 841 would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to act on long-pending installation applications by next March. With charging anxiety a big reason why consumers hesitate to purchase EVs, we will need to build infrastructure in order to achieve the mandate in the governor’s order.
Another win for the climate came last month when Gov. Newsom signed my AB-793; California leads again with the nation’s first mandate for recycled content in plastic beverage containers. No matter where they are manufactured, bottles sold in California will need to have a minimum percentage of recycled content, rising from 15% in 2022 to 50% in 2030, which would be the highest standard in the world. This establishes a domestic market for recycled plastic as other countries have stopped taking it. Decreasing the manufacture of virgin plastic also decreases the use of petroleum.
While the state has also made progress in reducing carbon emissions through cleaner power generation and our Cap and Trade program, we need to do more. The record wildfires show that we have to act with greater urgency. As your representative in Sacramento, I will continue working to address this most pressing issue of our time.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City. He lives in the Sunset District. He can be reached at (415) 557-2312 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and updates, visit https://a19.asmdc.org.