California Climate Wins in 2022

Climate Wins in 2022, blue background, Senator Josh Becker, Yellow California Map

While we still have a long road ahead of us, 2022 saw a number of significant legislative victories in the battle against climate change in California.

A few landmark bills set new targets and tightened the state’s overarching goals for reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG) and fossil fuel use. On top of this goal setting, the Legislature managed to garner bipartisan support for a variety of bills to ease the transition to a clean energy future. Finally, the Legislature and Governor backed up these policies by allocating an unprecedented amount of money in the state budget aimed at fighting climate change.

This year’s victories — which both adapt to and mitigate California's carbon emissions — will serve as a springboard for accelerating our goal of “Getting to Zero” emissions. 

Setting goals on fighting climate change

California refined and set major new targets for reducing GHG emissions. 

Two bills established landmark legal requirements for carbon emissions. AB 1279 (Muratsuchi) creates a legally binding target to achieve net zero emissions by 2045 in all of California, with at least 85% coming from emissions reductions. My SB 1203, better known as “California Zero,” requires the state to develop a plan for getting its buildings, vehicle fleet, and electricity usage to net zero GHG emissions by 2035. Given there are 24,000 state-owned buildings and structures, California’s government can and should lead by example when it comes to transitioning to a clean energy future. Having all state agencies meet net zero first will help shape the market to make clean energy appliances cheaper for others and demonstrate transition planning can be done. 

Other notable new laws create new goals and improve carbon capture and sequestration: 

  • AB 1757 (Cristina Garcia) requires state agencies to develop natural carbon sequestration plans for meeting and scaling nature-based carbon sequestration, which includes carbon removal methods such as increasing vegetation and forests, or composting in agriculture. Natural carbon sequestration will also play a role in supporting the transition away from agricultural GHG emissions . 
  • SB 905 (Caballero) requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to create a detailed framework for the capture, use, and storage of carbon dioxide. This bill will help to usher in a new industry to help capture carbon already released into the atmosphere. 
  • AB 2446 (Holden) creates a new framework through CARB to measure and reduce the amount of carbon emissions from new construction, and sets a net reduction goal of 40 percent by 2035. These intermediate targets will help agencies and industries more easily meet their emission reduction targets, which will help California meet its larger, more ambitious goals in the long run. 
  • SB 1145 (Laird) requires CARB to maintain a public online dashboard showing California’s progress in meeting its GHG emissions reduction targets. This information will provide the public with additional data and information about where and how emissions are being sourced.

Finally, one important of the resolutions this year, SCR 53 (McGuire), declares climate change as an emergency and recognizes California’s leadership on the issue. I am very proud of this year’s victories and excited for their role in future climate action.

Great climate bills to help meet the climate goals

To help the state meet these overarching targets, many bills were enacted to help speed up the implementation of emissions reduction measures and achieve the just transition to a clean energy future that is so critical.

(a) The Clean Energy Transition. Planning for California’s target of 100 percent renewable energy sales by 2045, a handful of bills passed this year will support the buildout, planning, and reliability of the energy transition.

  •  My SB 1158 requires all electricity suppliers to provide an hourly accounting of their electricity’s GHG emissions. Previous reporting requirements require utilities to demonstrate they are buying a certain percent of renewable energy. However, these reports are based on predicted energy demand, not actual energy usage, which often underestimates the amount of energy needed during peak grid hours of 4:00pm-9:00pm and during hotter weather.This change will provide for more accurate accounting of emissions and will ensure the procurement of clean energy sources around the clock. 
  • My SB 887 creates longer-term planning for the necessary transmission buildout by requiring the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC) to provide planning forecasts with a time horizon of at least 15 years.  It also prioritizes the delivery of new clean energy resources, reducing reliance on gas plants, and meeting the expected load growth that will come from the increased electrification of homes and buildings, as well as the expected rise in electric vehicle usage.
  • SB 1020 (Laird) creates new clean energy targets, requiring 90 percent of retail sales to come from renewables by 2035 and 95 percent by 2040. Moreover, the bill requires all state agencies to be fully served by renewable energy by 2035. These new targets will shape California’s energy planning to accelerate the procurement of clean energy. 
  • SB 423 (Stern) will help to improve grid reliability by requiring agencies to provide a report on firm zero-carbon resources to help California improve its summer and peak conditions, and report on barriers to deploying more firm resources now. The need for this became evident this summer during narrowly missed blackouts last September.
  • SB 1174 (Hertzberg) requires energy suppliers to provide the CPUC with annual reports describing what transmission is needed to connect renewable energy resources to the grid, which should reduce and hopefully eliminate transmission planning and delays. 

(b) Building Electrification. 

  • My SB 1112 provides a critical tool for the equitable financing of climate-friendly appliance upgrades by allowing decarbonization charges to be paid for through a utility financing program. These tariff on-bill, or TOB, programs allow residents to pay for the appliances over a certain fixed amount of time via an interest-free payment on their monthly utility bill.This program is similar to how some cell phone carriers allow you to pay for a phone over time as part of your monthly phone bill. SB 1112 also requires agencies to identify funding to make the program more cost-effective. This type of financing program to make building electrification upgrades affordable to more Californians is a critical change to reduce their home emissions. 

(c) Open space conservation. Preserving and maintaining public lands is foundational to capturing carbon through vegetation and creating habitat for sensitive species, while serving important public health needs. Two bills from this year will make it easier for open space districts to govern and preserve critical open spaces and park districts. 

  • AB 959 (Mullin) allows open-space districts and regional parks to adopt ordinances against illegal encroachments, illegal water diversions, and illegal dumping. Increasing the amount of open space will allow for greater carbon sinks, while providing more access to clean open air for Californians. 
  • AB 2789 (Mullin) allows for open space and park districts to use ‘design-build’ methods for building new facilities which are better adapted to more remote and ecologically sensitive areas. This will help to further protect biodiversity and preserve open space ecosystems. 

(d) Zero emission and electric vehicles (EV). California needs to significantly accelerate the EV market and improve access to EV chargers to meet its climate change goals. 

  • AB 2061 (Ting) orders the CEC to create and monitor standards for EV charging stations paid for by taxpayer or ratepayer money. This will improve charger reliability by providing and setting metrics on the ‘up-time’ that chargers should be online and maintenance requirements. 
  • SB 1251 (Gonzalez) creates a California Go-Biz division specifically for zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) Market Development, which will help steer and deploy ZEVs and their needed infrastructure.

(e) Climate health and justice. As California transitions to net-zero emissions, it is important to do so while considering the equity and health of, and impact on, all Californians. The Legislature passed many important measures to improve the state’s recycling and waste supply chains, and prevent the prolonged production of fossil fuels. 

  • AB 2440 (Irwin) requires household battery producers to establish programs to make it easier for Californians to recycle their batteries. Improving this process will reduce waste facility fires, allow for better recovery of minerals inside of batteries, and reduce the potential public health risk to humans. 
  • SB 1215 (Newman) expands existing California recycling regulations to cover products with batteries inside of them. 
  • AB 2208 (Kalra) bans the sale of and linear fluorescent maps beginning in 2025. These maps contain mercury that causes neurological damage if they are broken.
  • SB 54 (Allen) requires single-use plastic foodware and packaging to contain 65 percent recycled content by 2032. These targets are predicted to significantly reduce plastic lifecycle emissions and reduce overall waste.
  • SB 1314 (Limón) will prevent the use of captured carbon from being injected into oil fields to uncover more oil, a process known as enhanced oil recovery. This new criteria will prevent carbon capture from being used to prolong the life of and delay the transition away from fossil fuel. Instead, the bill allows the process to serve as a tool for primarily removing already released carbon.
  • SB 1137 (Gonzalez) prevents the drilling of old and new oil wells within 3,200 feet of a home, school, community resource, health care facility, or building open to the public. It also requires stricter monitoring and controls for existing wells within that 3,200 foot buffer. This public health victory now means oil wells will no longer be built near where Californians live, work or go to school.

The 2022 Climate Budget

The Legislature and Governor channeled an unprecedented amount of resources and funding toward the clean energy transition this year, much of which I wrote about in my “The Climate Budget Items You Should Know About” post.

In all, the Legislature and Governor allocated over $2 billion toward making the state’s electricity grid more reliable and smoothing out the road for a clean energy transition. 

One state budget bill, AB 205 (Committee on Budget), provides money for energy resources during tight grid conditions for the near- and long-term. The trailer also created a streamlined process to allow the CEC to permit new, large renewable energy resources to help the state build clean faster. 

Finally, SB 846 (Dodd) extended the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to ensure the grid remains reliable and flexible as California transitions to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Onward. The legislative victories this year will help to move California toward its carbon emission goals and will fight climate change. From protecting open space to deploying more EVs, approaching this fight from a variety of angles has been my priority this year in the Legislature, and these accomplishments demonstrate the state’s commitment to reaching our emissions goals. As my team and I gear up to introduce more bills next year, these victories will serve as a springboard for more quickly “Getting to Zero.”