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Climate crisis needs ‘courage for a change.’ Here’s what Gov. Newsom needs to do

May 29, 2019
Ro's Op-Eds
Ro Khanna and Annie Leonard

The Sacramento Bee

California is falling behind in addressing the climate crisis.

We have been pushing for our state to lead in the fight against runaway climate change for years now, and together we’ve achieved a lot. We’re on our way to running on 100 percent clean energy by 2045 – one of the most ambitious targets in the nation. California is showing concrete results in achieving the vision of a Green New Deal while fostering economic growth. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget commits California to becoming “carbon-neutral” by 2045.

Still, these achievements fall behind the pace science says is needed to give our youth a chance at a climate-safe future. They ring hollow if undermined by the continued expansion of oil and gas extraction. Targets and timelines mean little if we can’t break our addiction to dirty fossil fuels.

Newsom is moving California forward on a number of fronts. He included $1 billion for a working families tax credit to boost the income of low-income households. He’s cutting discriminatory sales taxes on tampons and diapers. And he’s put a moratorium on the death penalty.

Right now, he has the opportunity to lead on climate change, too. He has the chance to jumpstart a clean energy revolution that will create thousands of good-paying jobs. If we want to prevent the next Camp Fire, the next Santa Barbara oil spill and the next statewide mega-drought, we’ll need Newsom to lead the way with bold climate action.

On the national stage, we’re starting to see our politicians get it. Many 2020 candidates – including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee – have come out in favor of a ban on new fossil fuel extraction on public lands, which is currently responsible for a quarter of U.S. carbon emissions. That’s the kind of bold approach we need to take back our democracy and economy from the fossil fuel industry.

Just last week, the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board asked, “How much does Governor Newsom care” about climate change? We believe he cares a lot, but he needs a push in the right direction towards climate action. Here’s what that should look like.

It’s time for California to stop building new fossil fuel projects – a zero tolerance policy. That means no new oil drilling, no new pipelines and no new refineries.

Newsom should also institute a 2,500-foot buffer zone between oil drilling and homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive sites. California should end existing fossil fuel production where it’s impacting families most and put the health of Californians ahead of fossil fuel profits.

Millions of Californians – mostly people of color – are living with oil drilling and pollution in their neighborhoods. Some oil wells are quite literally next door. This way, we can ensure that not one more person must bear the health burden of the oil and gas industry’s pollution in their backyard or schoolyard.

Finally, California has the chance to prioritize justice for industry workers and their communities in the process. Working together, we can ensure the clean energy revolution leaves no one behind.

This is a defining moment for the governor and California. We can either be the state that leads this country toward a green, prosperous future, or we can continue to allow oil companies to drive us towards climate catastrophe.

The crisis in front of us demands bold climate champions. This week, at the California Democratic Party State Convention in San Francisco, the leaders of Newsom’s own party will be watching to see if California can lead.

Congressman Ro Khanna has represented California’s 17th congressional district since 2017. Annie Leonard is the executive director of Greenpeace USA.