Next month in Glasgow, Scotland, leaders from around the world will meet to decide the fate of the earth. If that sounds terrifying, it should.
The goal of COP26 in Glasgow is to get nations to increase their pledges for climate action enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The stakes are high and success far from guaranteed.
I have the privilege of going to Glasgow, with two goals in mind. First, we need to show that California will continue not just doing our share but leading the nation and the world on this issue. Second, we need to bring back the best ideas on how to make progress.
Current pledges from nations around the world don’t add up to enough action to prevent a climate disaster. That is not a surprise. The strategy behind the Paris Agreement was for everyone to get started, make progress and then come back with more ambitious pledges once they gained confidence — both in their own ability to reduce emissions and in their trust that everyone else was also going to do their fair share.
California’s progress is important for building that confidence. The world needs California’s leadership not just in reducing our own emissions but also in demonstrating how it can be done. Our policy innovations, like the Renewables Portfolio Standard to clean up the grid, have demonstrated that progress is possible and have become a roadmap widely followed by others.
California was instrumental in developing solar technology and providing government support to promote early adoption, which helped drive down prices dramatically — by 90% over the last 10 years — and made solar cheap enough to be adopted at scale worldwide.
We need similar innovation and supportive policy to decarbonize our whole economy, advancing the research and early deployment of technologies that the whole world will need. Senate Bill 596, my bill to get the cement industry to net zero by 2045, is a good example. Local cement producers will prove out solutions for eliminating emissions here in California and then deploy those solutions worldwide to address the 8% of global CO2 emissions that come from cement.
Developing climate solutions can be California’s next economic success story.
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, but also the greatest economic opportunity. Already, electric vehicles are California’s largest export. To build California’s leadership, we need the best ideas from around the world.
In my district, we proudly proclaim Silicon Valley as the technology capital of the world, but even so, smart investors and entrepreneurs recognize that Silicon Valley doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas. They search globally for the latest breakthroughs and the most effective business models. Glasgow offers a similar opportunity for climate policy. We need to bring the best ideas home to California.
In all of this, we have to remember that our goal is not just to reduce our own emissions here in California, but to catalyze a global effort. We’ll do that by demonstrating how it can be done, providing policies for others to copy. And we’ll do it by creating the technologies that are needed by the rest of the world, thus establishing California as a global powerhouse for the most important economic trend of this century.
The stakes are high in Glasgow.
State Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat from Menlo Park, represents California’s 13th Senate District. He was invited to be a representative of The Climate Center at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, because of his climate legislation. He wrote this column for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.