Congress Needn’t Look Any Further Than California on How to Combat Climate Change | Commentary

Posted October 1, 2014 at 4:33pm

President Barack Obama’s recent address to a global audience at the United Nations Climate Summit, coupled with the executive order he unveiled the same day, make even more evident the need to combat climate change despite some reluctance coming from Congress. According to the Globe Climate Change Legislation Study released earlier this year, “In the USA, dedicated climate change legislation remains politically challenging.”

We encourage policymakers on the Hill to take cues from California’s bipartisan approach.

In the Global Carbon Project report released just days before the UN summit, we learned worldwide carbon dioxide emissions actually went up 2.3 percent last year, and emissions are expected to increase another 2.5 percent this year. Despite those dismal numbers, California is setting the pace to turn things around.

California Gov. Jerry Brown spoke at the summit, calling California’s climate change efforts a “hopeful example” for the rest of the country. He cited success of the state’s cap-and-trade program, which charges fees for big polluters. The California Air Resources Board recently confirmed the state is on track to achieve the 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050, called for in CA’s Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2006.

The state’s tremendous efforts to tackle global warming can also be seen in the proliferation of electric vehicles. According to the EPA, motor vehicles alone collectively cause 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the U.S. According to the Department of Energy, on average EVs produce nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional gas vehicles.

More than two years ago, Brown issued an executive order setting a goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2015, and that was just the beginning. If California has already been cruising toward an electric car future, the state is now starting to merge into the fast lane. California lawmakers have worked in a bipartisan way to make electric vehicles more affordable and more available. The governor just signed a host of legislation to ramp up even more the growth of the EV industry including: rebates for low-income residents who swap from polluting cars to clean vehicles, the removal of lease restrictions to install EV charging infrastructure and expanded access to the carpool lane for low-emission vehicles.

Californians already drive 40 percent of all electric vehicles sold in the United States, and more than 100,000 plug-in cars have been sold in California in just the past four years. The Golden State also leads the country in EV growth by the sheer number of charging stations throughout the state. More Americans won’t feel truly comfortable making the switch to electric vehicles without a robust network of charging infrastructure.

We are already seeing signs of a promising and important shift within our EV charging network across the country. Every eight seconds, a driver connects to a ChargePoint station and with more than 6.3 million charging sessions, drivers have now saved more than 5.5 million gallons of gasoline, avoided 40.9 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and driven over 132 million gas-free miles — all proving EVs move us down the road to a sustainable future.

Now is the time to accelerate toward a cleaner environment and brighter future. The electric car is a key vehicle to get us there and change is already happening one charge at a time.

Pasquale Romano is the president and CEO of ChargePoint.