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Photo of Commissioner Weissenmiller Greeting from Chair Weisenmiller

On how the state must transform its energy system away from fossil fuels to meet the existential challenge of climate change


California's natural wonders are extraordinary as they span from the bristlecone pines near Bishop to the redwoods at Muir Woods, from the Trinity Alps to the Mojave Desert, and from the waters of Humboldt Bay to San Diego Bay. Yet that beauty is under attack from the ravages of climate change.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue on the current path, more destructive impacts are anticipated, including increased fires, droughts, and heat waves. About half of the 20 largest and deadliest wildfires in California burned in the last decade, seven of them in 2017.

The actions that Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the state Legislature have taken to combat climate change have established California as an international leader. The state has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, created guiding principles for climate planning and funding, and ensured equitable implementation of policies so that the benefits will reach disadvantaged communities.

More is needed. The state must further transform its energy system away from fossil fuels while maintaining the services Californians rely on at a reasonable price, including energy for lighting, heat on a cold day, air conditioning during a heat wave, and fuel to get on the roads. The energy sector, when transportation is included, is the state's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector alone accounts for 50 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of smog-forming elements.

Prominent scientists have written a letter, cosigned by Governor Brown, which argues a rapid decline in greenhouse gas emissions must be initiated in the next three years to avoid the most extreme impacts of this unfolding global calamity. Transforming the energy sector will not be easy, but it also offers opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

The employees at the California Energy Commission are working diligently to facilitate this transformation as we set building and appliance standards, target 50 percent of our electricity to be from renewable sources, and direct the infrastructure needed to encourage zero-emission vehicles.

The Governor recently directed the Energy Commission to step up our efforts to make the changes needed to support the state's transition to clean transportation. We are poised to ramp up efforts to expedite the deployment of the infrastructure needed to support Governor Brown's goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roadways by 2030. Also, the Energy Commission will work to ensure electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations are located in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

This bold initiative is needed so California can continue its efforts reduce the state's carbon footprint, improve public health and the environment, and reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuels.

We look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Robert B. Weisenmiller

Chair, California Energy Commission