Yesterday California adopted the most ambitious carbon reduction target in North America, aiming to reduce its carbon emissions 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. This is an important and ambitious goal, not only for the state but for other U.S. states as well as Canadian provinces that are partnering with California on climate action.

It’s clear from California’s statement that the state recognizes that this goes beyond climate change, that it entails a whole bunch of other benefits to the well-being of its citizens and the economy. The growth in clean technology and clean energy in California are outpacing the rest of the country and the state wants that to continue. Energy savings will come from more efficient buildings and vehicles, including zero-polluting cars and trucks. People’s health will improve as air quality improves. And transit expansion and better urban design will assist in making communities more livable and walkable. There’s a lot to look forward to in the Golden State.

These efforts will also build on California’s recent climate successes. Carbon pollution has been dropping fairly steadily since 2004 and it’s reportedly on track to meet and even surpass the state’s original climate goals.

The goal announced yesterday is ambitious, a true sign of leadership, and one that Canadian provinces should look to follow. Ontario and Quebec in particular, because they have an existing climate action partnership with California through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), should be looking to at least match that target. Given that Ontario and Quebec have a head start—their 2020 targets are, respectively, 15% and 20% lower already—you could make an argument that they should be going even further.

Other provinces who see themselves as leaders should also get on board. At one point, both B.C. and Manitoba were in discussions with California about joining the WCI.

In addition to taking on an ambitious target for 2030 that could be a real game-changer for the continent, Canadian provinces should also be adopting and legislating targets in 5-year increments. This means setting a 2025 target too. Narrowing the time between commitments would mean that governments could not put off action—we know from experience in Canada that this can happen if a target is more than a decade away. Instead, governments would need to work towards a target because they would be judged on an annual basis on progress made.

If leading Canadian provinces took on the kinds of initiatives discussed yesterday in California—setting strong targets but more importantly taking real action—it could have a transformative effect in addressing the climate issue in Canada. 

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