For nearly fifteen years, Next 10 has closely tracked the most pressing environmental and economic challenges facing the state of California, with a goal to educate and empower Californians to seek a better future for our state. As we share this year’s edition of the California Green Innovation Index, it is against not only the backdrop of the last two years of COVID-19 challenges, but also just weeks after the global climate summit concluded in Glasgow, Scotland. While many have critiqued the lack of progress and commitment to meaningful action that resulted from the Glasgow negotiations, what is clear is that the world is watching and is concerned. Countries like China and India may continue to rely on coal to build their economies, but while the resulting emissions are problematic, US emissions have represented a far greater share of global greenhouse gas pollution historically. The time for pointing fingers has long since passed. We all must do our part to transition to a carbon-free economy without marginalizing others in the process.
Commitment to aggressive action to reduce the impacts of climate change that are already being felt while simultaneously driving down emissions to limit future harm from a warming planet is critical. For years, California has been at the forefront of climate leadership, setting aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals and clean energy targets while investing in policy and technology to help build a greener and cleaner economy. And while the state has delivered on many fronts, the hard truth remains that we are no longer on track to meet our forthcoming climate goals, and even state leadership has expressed concern that we are off track.
The latest greenhouse gas inventory data show that California saw its second largest year-over-year drop in emissions since 2010—but our annual rate of reduction is still far from where it needs to be in order to meet our 2030 climate goal. California’s rate of renewable energy growth has also slowed in recent years, while more natural gas capacity was added to the grid in 2020 than any other resource. Slow progress is being achieved in the transportation and building sectors as adoption of cleaner vehicles and building codes and technologies gain modest momentum. But at our current rate of progress, we would be hitting our climate goals decades late.
Recent developments to expand renewable energy and clean vehicle infrastructure within the state show promise, but results must be achieved with expediency. We know that a cleaner economy can deliver for Californians: our investments in solar energy has placed the state as the largest employer of solar workers—more than one third of the national solar workforce. And with solar jobs alone providing more than five times the number of jobs in the fossil fuel industry in the state, it is clear that there is abundant opportunity to grow our clean energy economy.
Getting through this moment in our history won’t be easy, but if the last few years have taught us anything, it is that we are all connected and we can all help each other out of a collective crisis. Working to address climate change through all sectors of the economy and to ensure all communities are part of the solution will be critical to our success. We hope that our latest data will shed light on not only the challenges we face in attempting to grow our economy while addressing climate change, but also the opportunities to help get us there. By redoubling our statewide efforts to serve as a climate leader, we can help deliver benefits to all Californians while reclaiming our role as a global leader, as well.
F. Noel Perry, Founder