California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a “Vote No” remembrance campaign event in San Francisco, California, US, on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
California voters will decide whether to remove Democratic administration Gavin Newsom in a Sept. 14 recall election. While Newsom has only taken moderate action to curb climate change, his replacement could lead to a rollback of green policies, such as phasing out fracking and gasoline-powered vehicles, and would have national implications for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. to decrease.
There are 46 challengers committed to removing Newsom. Of the 24 Republican candidates on the ballot, many want to roll back the state’s ambitious plans to tackle climate change and the transition to cleaner energy.
Newsom will be removed from office if more than 50% of voters choose to have him recalled. The governor seems increasingly likely to run for his seat, with polls in recent weeks showing voters prefer to keep him in office.
Conservative radio host Larry Elder, a supporter of former President Donald Trump who has consistently spread climate misinformation, has emerged as the clear frontrunner as Newsom loses.
Elder has said he wants to “end the war on oil and gas” and argues that “global warming alarmism is a fallacy”. He has also repeatedly denied the role of climate change in California’s worsening wildfire season, instead blaming a lack of forest management.
During an interview with ABC News in the Caldor Fire zone of Northern California, Newsom pushed back Elder’s comments about the climate, arguing that his opponent “don’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the issue of climate.” and climate change.”
Another top candidate, GOP businessman John Cox, has argued that the state should produce more natural gas and become the “Saudi Arabia of the West”, and has maintained that climate regulation has increased costs in the state.
“Between wildfires, foul air and drought, our state is in a near-constant state of emergency,” said Victoria Rome, California director of public affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We have absolutely no time to waste with an anti-scientific governor.”
Republican gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder is campaigning against current California governor Gavin Newsom in the California governor’s recall election in Los Angeles, California, on Sept. 2, 2021.
Mike Blake | Reuters
What could a new governor do?
A new governor is unlikely to dismantle any significant California climate legislation, especially given the Democratic state legislature and the governor’s re-election in 2022. Still, much of California’s climate policy is accomplished through executive orders and administrative measures, both of which a new governor could change or roll back.
“While a new governor might not be able to launch a legislative attack on California’s climate policy, they could delay, reverse, and even reverse the implementation of California’s climate policy,” said William Boyd, a professor at UCLA’s Institute of the UCLA. Environment and Sustainability.
“We would at least be looking at a year of potentially dramatic changes in the scale and pace of implementation, which would likely lead to lawsuits and a stalemate until the next election,” Boyd said. “We cannot afford to lose for a year or more given the accelerating climate crisis.”
California, the world’s fifth largest economy, has implemented some of the most aggressive plans to move from fossil fuel production to cleaner energy. Much of the necessary legislation has been around for years.
The plans include an order for the state’s Air Force Board to cut emissions by 40% by the end of the decade, a requirement for utilities to get all of their energy from clean sources by 2045, and a requirement that all trucks used in the state are to be emission-free by 2045.
As California grapples with worsening wildfires, water shortages and a historic drought, Newsom is under increasing pressure to act more aggressively on climate change.
The governor has signed executive orders to require all new cars to be electric by 2035 and to ban new fracking permits by 2024. The Newsom administration also recently passed a building code to transition new buildings from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. In addition, last year California became the first state to commit to protecting 30% of its land and coastal waters by 2030.
Steve Weissman, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment, said that while Newsom has been a “stay on track” governor on climate change, he is an “elder-like Republican” in office. could lead to an increase in the number of conservative judges who may oppose key climate policies.
“If it led to a potential re-election, the impact on California’s climate and environmental policy would be devastating and potentially irreversible,” Weissman said.
“This could slow climate policy across the country and around the world,” he continued. “It’s hard to overestimate the damage this can do.”
A sign that reads “No water equals jobs lost” on a farm during a drought in Firebaugh, California, on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
In addition to reversing Newsom’s orders on things like clean vehicles, conservation and oil and gas production, a new governor could also pull out of interstate agreements, such as the fifteen-state bipartisan memorandum of understanding that commits to a net achieve zero emissions from new truck and bus sales by the middle of the century.
A new governor could also appoint new leaders at organizations that promote climate initiatives, and block or cut funding for conservation or clean energy projects.
Richard Frank, a professor of environmental law at UC Davis, said a new governor hostile to existing climate initiatives could “starve” some of the major executive agencies and appoint members not as committed to reducing emissions. of greenhouse gases.
“This could have a significant impact on slowing, if not rolling back, aggressive policies to combat climate change,” Frank said.