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California governor sets course for final year

25 Jan 2018 21:03 GMT
California governor sets course for final year

San Francisco, 25 January (Argus) — California governor Jerry Brown (D) set an ambitious climate agenda for his final year in office that includes more electric vehicles, a greater focus on forests and a renewed push for high-speed rail.

Brown laid out his priorities in his 16th and final State of the State address today, building a case to be recognized as the leading voice in the US on climate change.

"Whether it is roads, or trains, or dams, or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for the entire nation," Brown said.

The governor called for putting 5mn zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, a significant increase of his previous goal of 1.5mn by 2025. The 337,000 electric vehicles on the road in California as of last year accounted for nearly half of all such vehicles in the US.

The business group Advanced Energy Economy called the governor's target "the next step" for the state.

"California must prepare for the future, and that includes updating the state's electricity and transportation systems," senior director of California policy Amisha Rai said.

For governor Brown, that future includes high-speed rail.

"I make no bones about it: I like trains," Brown said. "I like high-speed trains even better."

He remains the biggest advocate for a high-speed rail line that would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. Through 2016, the state had invested $800mn of cap-and-trade revenues into the project. But with concerns about cost overruns mounting, it remains to be seen whether his successor will champion the cause with similar enthusiasm.

Brown also addressed the state's forests, which have been ravaged by wildfires. A task force will review how forests are managed and recommend ways to reduce the threat of fires and increase carbon storage capacity. Brown has previously said that he is concerned wildfires will negate the positive impacts of the state's climate programs.

After Brown pushed for and won a 10-year extension of cap and trade last year, climate advocates now await his plan for spending the program's revenues.

"Investments from California's cap-and-trade program are an important tool to continue driving these emission reductions," Environmental Defense Fund California climate director Quentin Foster said.

The governor's office said it would release a cap-and-trade expenditure plan tomorrow.