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California governor ramps up greenhouse gas restrictions

Chris Megerian Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Jerry Brown accelerated California’s effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions Wednesday, burnishing the state’s reputation as a pacesetter in the battle against climate change.

In an executive order, Brown said the state must cut the pollutants to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030, more than a decade after he leaves office.

That is an interim target, intended to help California lower emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050, a target set by Brown’s predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“In North America, California is now setting the pace, and we’re very serious about it,” Brown told a crowd of hundreds at a climate change conference in Los Angeles. “We’re going to take whatever steps are needed to get the job done, because our future depends on it.”

The governor’s plan increases the pressure on lawmakers and businesses to create more renewable energy, cut gasoline use on state roads and make buildings more energy-efficient.

It also comes as the United Nations prepares for a major international summit on climate change later this year in Paris, which Brown plans to attend.

Brown’s order aligns the state’s goals with standards set by the European Union. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. conference, praised the governor’s move.

“California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe,” she said in a statement.

The state emits only a tiny fraction of the globe’s greenhouse gases. But environmental activists and others hope the ongoing efforts – and California’s status as the world’s seventh-largest economy – will spur others to action.

“I talk with people in Europe and China,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. “They’re very aware of what’s going on in California. It does affect their thinking.”

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