Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, speaks at a “Vote No” recall campaign event in San Francisco, California, United States on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
California voters will decide to remove Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election on September 14. Although Newsom has taken only moderate steps to tackle climate change, its replacement could result in a rollback of green policies such as phasing out fracking and gasoline vehicles, and would have national implications for the efforts. aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
There are 46 challengers run to overthrow Newsom. Of the 24 Republican candidates on the ballot, many want to reverse 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 recall him. The governor seems increasingly likely to retain his seat, with polls in recent weeks showing voters favor to keep him in office.
Conservative radio host Larry Elder, a supporter of former President Donald Trump who constantly disseminated climate disinformation, has become the clear leader in the event of Newsom’s defeat.
Elder said he sought to “stop the war on oil and gas” and argued that “global warming alarmism is a pitcher.” He has also repeatedly denied the role of climate change in worsening the California wildfire season, instead attributing the fires to a lack of forest management.
During a interview with ABC News in the Caldor fire zone in northern California, Newsom rebuffed Elder’s comments on the climate, arguing that his opponent “doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the issue of climate and climate change.”
Another prominent candidate, GOP businessman John Cox, argued that the state should produce more natural gas and become “Saudi Arabia of the West”, and argued that regulations climate have increased costs in the state.
“Between forest fires, polluted air and drought, our state is in an almost constant state of emergency,” said Victoria Rome, director of government affairs for California at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We have absolutely no time to waste with an anti-science governor.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder campaigns against current California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the California governor’s recall election in Los Angeles, California on September 2, 2021.
Mike Blake | Reuters
A new governor is unlikely to dismantle major climate legislation in California, especially given the Democratic state legislature and the governor’s re-election in 2022. Yet much of climate policy in California is unlikely. California is achieved through executive order and administrative action, both of which a new governor could change or overthrow.
“While a new governor would not be able to launch a legislative attack on California climate policy, he would be able to slow down, redirect and even reverse the implementation of California climate policy,” said William Boyd, professor at the Institute of the UCLA. Environment and sustainability.
“At a minimum, we would envision a year of potentially dramatic changes in the scale and pace of implementation, which would likely lead to litigation and stalemate until the next election,” Boyd said. “Losing a year or more is not something we can afford given the accelerating climate crisis.”
California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, has implemented some of the most aggressive plans to shift from fossil fuel production to cleaner energy. Much of the necessary legislation has been in place for years.
The plans include an order for the State Air Resources Board reduce emissions by 40% by the end of the decade, a requirement for utilities to get all their energy from clean sources by 2045 and a requirement that all trucks sold in the state must be zero emissions by 2045.
As California grapples with worsening wildfires, water shortages and a historic drought, Newsom faces increasing pressure to act more aggressively on climate change.
The governor signed decrees for demand that all new cars be electric by 2035 and to ban new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024. The Newsom administration also recently adopted a building code to transition from new buildings using fossil fuels to clean energy sources. Additionally, California last year became the first state to commit to protect 30% of land and coastal waters by 2030.
Steve Weissman, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, said that while Newsom has been a governor “keeping the cap” on climate change, having an “old-style Republican” in position could lead to an increase in the number of conservative judges likely to oppose a key climate policy.
“If this led to a potential re-election, the impact on California’s climate and environmental policy would be devastating and potentially irreversible,” Weissman said.
“It could slow down climate policy nationally and globally,” he continued. “It’s hard to overstate the damage this could cause.”
A sign reading “No water equals lost jobs” on a farm during a drought in Firebaugh, Calif. On Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
In addition to rescinding Newsom’s orders on issues such as clean vehicles, oil and gas conservation and production, a new governor could also withdraw from interstate agreements, as the bipartite Memorandum of Understanding of the fifteen states which commits to achieving zero net emissions from new truck and bus sales by mid-century.
A new governor could also appoint new leaders in organizations that advance climate initiatives, as well as block or reduce funding for conservation or clean energy projects.
Richard Frank, professor of environmental law at UC Davis, said a new governor hostile to existing climate initiatives could “starve” some of the key implementing agencies and appoint members who are not as dedicated to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“This could have a significant impact on slowing if not reversing aggressive climate change mitigation policies,” Frank said.