NEW YORK – Former California Gov. Jerry Brown famously said last year that California would launch its “own damn satellite” to track climate change in defiance of the Trump administration. On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce a new approach and way to pay for it.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by climate activist and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledged to spend an undisclosed sum to help the state use satellite data to track the emission of greenhouse gases. The funding will allow Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based earth-imaging company, to use its existing satellites and launch new ones to quantify emissions from all over the world and the state’s progress toward its climate goals.
The partnership, which is expected to be unveiled Wednesday at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, is part of what Newsom describes as his most important job in fighting climate change: ensuring California meets the environmental targets set by his predecessors.
“There’s not much ambition to ramp up,” Newsom said during a panel discussion on Tuesday with other governors. “We’re at 100 percent everything.”
Newsom spent the early part of the week in New York to attend the United Nations Climate Summit, at which leaders from all over the world met to discuss their work to combat global warning. He loudly criticized President Donald Trump, saying his efforts would set the nation’s progress back, drawing applause from foreign officials.
The new governor took advantage of the international stage to reinforce California’s position as a climate leader, giving credit to Republicans and Democrats who held the office before him. During each press conference, panel and speech, Newsom reiterated a sober warning that California’s road ahead won’t be easy.
“Most of the what and why has been accomplished,” Newsom told The Times before walking onto the floor of the United Nations General Assembly. “This is all about application. This is all about implementation.”
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, laid the foundation for the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Under Brown, the state set bold goals to slash emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and generate 100 percent of the state’s retail electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Recent polls from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California show that more than two-thirds of adults in California support the policies.
“It’s both Herculean and an imminently doable task,” said Aimee Barnes, Brown’s policy adviser on climate. “We set a lot of aspirational goals in the Brown administration and prior administrations. The point of a goal is to give a North Star, to give some direction to where we need to be headed. I think if anyone can do it, it’s California.”
In a report issued last month, air quality regulators hailed the state’s shift toward renewable energy, which contributed to a 1 percent decline in overall greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. But in order to meet long-term goals, the state will need to help pull more gas-guzzling cars and trucks off the road and accelerate the pace of its programs.
“There is no greater challenge for California than addressing the transportation emissions, which are not only 40 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, but they are the one area of emissions that continue to rise over the last few years,” Newsom said.