California’s climate victory aligns with national will for conservation

Written by David Connell on . Posted in Act, The Wonk Room

This post was originally published by the National Journal.

Well, last night’s election was a huge victory as voters spoke out in support of taking action on climate change.

For those of us fighting in the climate change trenches, our work has only just begun. A dismal outcome at the climate talks in Copenhagen was the first of several dominoes to fall.

First, progress at the federal level completely fell apart. Then, special interests outside of California schemed up a deceptive ballot initiative called Prop 23 that aimed to repeal AB 32, California’s historical climate change law. The passage of this initiative would have effectively killed California’s clean energy, carbon reduction programs and undermine air pollution standards.

So, were Californians sweating this? To sum it up in one word: YES! And so were climate change advocates around the world. All eyes were fixed on the election in California.

And then, something remarkable happened. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in the World Series and brought home their first-ever pennant to California. People took to the streets in celebration.

The very next day, Californians from every walk of life and discipline came out in droves to stop the dirty energy proposition. Businesses like Google, Cisco and eBay; labor unions, cities, churches, environmental groups, the American Lung Association and dozens of other health organizations, transportation providers, and concerned citizens – young and old – overwhelmingly rejected the initiative. Californians spoke out to protect California’s air quality, environment, and green economy.

Was it possible that these major wins were somehow connected? Probably not. But, they sent a strong message to the rest of the world that California is a powerful force – in both responding to the challenges of our changing climate and in our ability to develop first-class athletic teams.

Yesterday’s vote is the silver lining in a grim year for progress on climate change. AB 32 is one of the few comprehensive approaches now in place to deal with this urgent problem. The crushing defeat of Prop 23 validates the progress California has made on climate change and could be the catalyst needed to get national and global efforts back on track.

However, it was not a clean sweep for conservation in California. Although Americans voted to dedicate more than 2 billion dollars for conservation in key ballot measures across the nation, unfortunately Prop 21, the state parks initiative, failed approval at the hands of voters in California. Ongoing economic challenges, a contentious election and a very frustrating budget situation in California made it difficult to connect with voters about the urgency to bring stability to state park funding. As a result, parks, fish and wildlife conservation initiatives will likely face serious cuts in the years ahead unless new revenues can be identified.

The Nature Conservancy will continue to seek innovative solutions to support and protect our incredib le parks, recreation, wildlife and marine conservation programs. As a state, we have made impressive progress in protecting our natural environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Today is a good day to be a Californian. We have important work ahead of us. We look forward to working with you all to meet the challenges of protecting our natural environment and addressing climate change.

By Mike Sweeney, California executive director, The Nature Conservancy

(Image: Protest against Proposition 23 in Pacifica, California, by 350.org. Used under a creative commons license.)

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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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