The U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit held last week in Los Angeles provided a golden opportunity for two world powers to unite and lead the way in solving our planet’s carbon emissions problem. It was also an opportunity to showcase for climate leaders from around the world what we have accomplished in California over the last several decades in terms of air quality – and offer a road map for combating global warming.
It’s fitting that the summit was held here in California. This state has long been at the forefront of environmental protection and climate change policy. Long before the term “global warming” became a part of the lexicon, we in California were grappling with a serious air quality challenge known simply as “smog.”
Today, perhaps more than any other state, California has made the reduction of greenhouse gas a priority. The state has had a climate change law, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, since 2006. There is already a working cap-and-trade system in place here for reducing carbon emissions.
This state has one of the nation’s most ambitious renewable-energy mandates, which requires utilities to deliver 33 percent of our electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. We are on track to meet that goal. And we at Southern California Edison supported recent legislation in the state Capitol raising that target to 50 percent renewables by 2030.
In fact, Edison has a long history of leading the way in innovative solutions to energy and environmental challenges.
In the 1950s, working with a Caltech scientist, Edison developed the first air pollution abatement systems, including the catalytic converter. In the 1970s, Edison took the lead in promoting electricity conservation. It was also an early pioneer in the development of nuclear power as well as wind and solar energy. Today, our Advanced Technology Centers in Pomona and Westminster are on the cutting edge of research and development of smart grid technologies and electric transportation.
We are proud to play a part in California’s success story of reducing air pollution while maintaining its robust economic climate. What this state has accomplished since the notorious air pollution days of the 20th century is truly remarkable.
Los Angeles in particular, once considered the smog capital of the world, has greatly reduced its bad-air days. Its unhealthy ozone days have been reduced by more than one-third in the last 15 years, according to the American Lung Association. The California Air Resources Board estimates that 63 percent of Californians now reside in areas that meet the federal standard for ozone, compared with only 24 percent in 1990.
Since 1990, California’s population has increased by 29 percent, the number of vehicles on its roads has increased by 32 percent and the economy has grown by 83 percent, yet statewide emissions of smog-forming pollutants have decreased by more than 50 percent, according to the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association.
There is still much to be done, however. That’s why we are building the clean-energy power system of the future. This multiyear, multibillion-dollar project will modernize our power grid to better accommodate distributed energy such as rooftop solar and new technologies including battery storage of electricity and electrification of transportation.
Climate change transcends the borders of California. It is a challenge for the entire world. Air pollution travels from Asia to North America propelled by the prevailing Jet Stream, and China in particular faces an enormous challenge in reducing air pollution while continuing to grow its economy. But it can be done. We’re doing it here in California.
As last week’s U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit demonstrated, our two nations can work together to lead the world to a cleaner future.
Ted Craver is chief executive of Edison International.
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