Close to Home: California is falling behind on climate protection

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

Since 2002, Sonoma County has set national climate protection precedents. To accelerate our leadership, we must push the state of California to do much more to help us.

State policy can give communities climate leverage. An example is Sonoma Clean Power, which has done more than any other local effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly and significantly, by delivering electricity from cleaner energy sources. Sonoma Clean Power was possible only because the state passed legislation that enabled local communities to create community choice agencies. We need more state policies like this so that communities here and throughout California can pursue aggressive climate action in transportation, carbon sequestration and other sectors.

Sonoma County is ground zero for the climate crisis with wildfires, smoke, drought and floods, as well as with the enormous, associated trauma and economic burdens. The past seven years have been the warmest on record. The 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. Unless we match our actions with the speed and scale of the crisis, trauma and expense will escalate exponentially.

Ann Hancock
Ann Hancock
Kenny Likitprakong
Kenny Likitprakong

We call on local governments, businesses, organizations and individuals to help push California policymakers to do more. The first step is to endorse Climate-Safe California, an initiative led by the Climate Center, Sonoma County’s homegrown organization.

Endorsements demonstrate to policymakers that support for them to act is growing. The goal of Climate-Safe California is for the state to achieve net-negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This initiative provides a framework for the policies that will put California on the path to solutions at the speed and scale required by the latest science and rapidly worsening climate reality.

Three principles underlie Climate-Safe California. First, base policies on the most current climate science. Second, provide a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers, their families and their communities. Third, close the climate gap by reducing the impact of fossil fuel production and use, and other climate crisis impacts on lower-income communities and communities of color.

In the past, California was considered a global climate leader, but the state is falling behind. California is banking on outdated climate targets and policies in the face of an accelerating crisis. The state aspires yet struggles to reach inadequate goals, such as 40% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions by 2030, 60% GHG-free electricity by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2045. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order banning the sale of new internal-combustion engine cars and light trucks by 2035, although first in the nation, is being outpaced by other states and nations.

California can and should ramp up its leadership by aligning its climate goals with the most recent science and enacting policies so that the state achieves those goals. A new Biden administration needs California to prove that accelerated climate action provides a vast array of benefits — saving lives, saving dollars, accelerating equitable job creation and unleashing market forces to scale up the green economy.

Sonoma County’s local governments have already begun to step up. This matters because California policymakers really listen to local elected leaders.

On Jan. 11, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority, comprised of representatives of the county and all nine cities, voted unanimously to endorse Climate-Safe California, and the city of Petaluma did the same on Feb. 1. All five Sonoma County supervisors endorsed as individuals. Overall, nearly 900 businesses, elected leaders, organizations and individuals have endorsed Climate-Safe California.

We urge all cities and counties, as well as businesses, organizations and individuals to endorse Climate-Safe California. Let us continue our exemplary, inspirational climate leadership.

To endorse Climate-Safe California, complete the form at

Ann Hancock is co-founder and chief strategist of the Climate Center. Kenny Likitprakong is the owner and winemaker of Hobo Wines, one of the earliest business endorsers of Climate-Safe California.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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