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Carl Nettleton headshot

California’s Climate Change Leadership Created 500,000 Jobs

By Carl Nettleton

"Over the past decade, there has been nearly $48 billion in documented investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and other climate projects resulting from California climate policies, programs and actions." -- Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)
Change is hard.

And change is particularly hard when it comes to climate change. The economic and environmental issue can be likened to a disease barely showing symptoms, like having the sniffles before pneumonia sets in. How can emitting an invisible molecule that doesn’t directly affect human health be a problem? Unlike smog, carbon dioxide (CO2) doesn’t make your lungs hurt or your eyes water -- but it does trap heat in our atmosphere that leads to climate change.

As a result of the invisibility of this threat, climate change is viewed by those without an understanding of the science as yet another reason to create regulations to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Many of the businesses that must comply with new regulations or make investments in new technology see nothing but costs.

There is another side of the equation, though. Many businesses are positioning themselves to be competitive in the future. They understand that new regulations and the push to dramatically limit or even eliminate the use of fossil fuels are creating technological innovation, jobs and significant investment. In effect, the cures to the disease of climate change are creating a new economy.

While some naysayers dismiss the economic benefits of climate change innovation, one organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), has commissioned a number of studies to document the positive change that is underway.  E2 is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and others who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. (Full disclosure, I'm on the California state and national advisory committees for E2; I have unabashed support for the organization and its research.)

In August 2016, E2 released a report detailing the impact of California’s climate change regulations since the Global Warming Act of 2006 (AB32) became law in California.  The report's findings were substantive and played a key role in the passage of SB32 this year. SB32 effectively builds on the foundation established by AB32 and requires the state to reduce carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. AB32 set an initial target of returning emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

According to E2’s report, District Economic Facts from Climate Policies, California stakeholders invested $48 billion in renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and other climate projects since 2006. These investments by both public and private entities produced more than 500,000 jobs in California.

The report analyzed investments, jobs, cap-and-trade fund allocations, and emission-reduction equivalents for each California assembly district to make sure legislators understand how climate change regulation benefits their districts, constituents and the state overall.

“[California] is by far the nation’s leader in clean-energy jobs and investments," said E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe. "No other state comes close." In addition, Keefe asserts that these investments made clean energy the fastest-growing industry sector in the state, contributing to California’s position as the fastest-growing economy in the country.

The continuation of those clean-technology innovations depends on investors having certainty that the regulatory climate will continue to be supportive of their products and services. Keefe says the passage of SB32 “has given clean energy investors, companies and their employees badly needed clarity about where the state’s energy marketplace is headed, which is critical for business planning.”

E2’s work isn’t limited to California. With chapters in the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, New England, New York and the Mid-Atlantic, the organization is working hard to identify the economic benefits that are critical to progress in addressing climate change.

Clean Jobs in America, an E2 report published earlier this year, found that more than 2.5 million Americans work in clean energy jobs across the nation. Other recent work includes mapping clean-energy jobs in Pennsylvania (66,000 jobs); determining the number of clean jobs in New York (85,000) and the Midwest (569,000 in 12 states); analyzing Colorado and Oregon’s clean energy future; and publishing Clean Power Players: Land a Job in Clean Energy, a report that offers “practical, how-to advice for young people seeking careers in clean energy.”

Click here for more information about Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Flickr/Paul Hamilton

Carl Nettleton headshot

Carl Nettleton is an acclaimed award-winning writer, speaker and analyst. He heads Nettleton Strategies, a public policy firm specializing in oceans, water, energy, climate, and U.S. Mexico border issues. Carl also founded OpenOceans Global, an NGO solving ocean crises by unifying and empowering global communities. Carl serves on the national and California advisory councils for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners, investors and others who advocate for policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. He is co-chair of the San Diego Water Conservation Action Committee (CAC) and a member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Alpha, South County Economic Development Council, Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce and U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership.

Read more stories by Carl Nettleton