Notes from Toni: Battling climate change

Posted: October 21st, 2016 | Columns, Featured, Notes from Toni | No Comments

By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni

When I boarded a plane bound for Paris in late November 2015, where I would participate in an international climate-change summit, my pride was still fresh from the Legislature recently passing Senate Bill 350, which expanded renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. However, we still had work to do on SB 32 to advance our targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Toni Atkins

Toni Atkins

By the time I returned home from Paris, I was even more invigorated, because our California delegation had been greeted as rock stars in the global campaign to battle climate change. I knew we could get SB 32 done with a bit of hard work.

California is the leader on climate change because we set ambitious emissions-reduction targets and we have created innovative ways of hitting them. But that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. Some communities — struggling rural towns in the north, disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and our border region in the south — are feeling left out.

My message to my colleagues: Let’s not throw away the sturdy structure of our policies that provides a model for the rest of the world just because not every part of it is working exactly how we would like it. Instead, let’s continue what’s working overall and commit to fixing the parts that some of my colleagues say are leaving their communities behind.

I’m happy to say that we succeeded. We passed SB 32 and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, my friend from the Coachella Valley, is a big reason for that.

Mr. Garcia is one of the colleagues I selected to join our Assembly delegation in Paris. Last year, he declined to vote for SB 32 because he felt that our climate programs weren’t benefiting disadvantaged communities. But this year, he became a partner with Sen. Fran Pavley the author of SB 32, and he proposed a companion bill, AB 197, to address the concerns that he and other members of the Assembly had last year.

At the end of our session, we passed both bills, and in early September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed them. SB 32 requires California to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 (its predecessor, 2006’s AB 32, required the state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020). AB 197 makes the California Air Resources Board (CARB) more accountable to the Legislature and requires CARB to be more considerate of disadvantaged communities when it develops new climate programs.

This was a great example of people representing different factions of the Legislature working together to solve a problem. In the process, we sent an important message to the private sector that California remains committed to green technologies and supportive of clean-industry innovation, and we made our climate program — as Assemblymember Garcia puts it — more equitable, accountable and transparent.

I’m thrilled with the steps we’ve taken to fight climate change and I’m proud of California’s role as a global leader. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. We’re all in this together.

Around the District: Seniors who need help with property taxes can apply to the state’s Property Tax Postponement Program to defer current taxes if they meet certain conditions and have a household income of $35,500 or less. For more details, see or 800-952-5661 … October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Free mammograms are available throughout October at various locations throughout the city and county. For more information, click the “events” tab at, where you also can find tips on breast health and an explanation of why mammograms are important.

—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker Emeritus of the California State Assembly. For more information, please visit her website, where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or get the latest news on legislation and other activities. You also may follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.

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