Fittingly, it was during the summit California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill establishing a legal target of zero emissions for the state’s electricity system by 2045 - and in a completely unexpected move, signed an executive order setting a target of zero emissions by 2045 for the entire California economy.
While it is not clear how this goal will be met – or at what cost - it is clear California over the last two decades has proven itself more than capable of meeting or exceeding its targets through the adoption of both innovative technology and public policy solutions. There will be winners and losers of course.
California started setting climate goals during the administration of then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and it has generally met or exceeded them.
The state’s emissions have already fallen below 1990 levels, at the same time emissions throughout the US have also begun to fall. The year 2017 marked the country’s lowest level of carbon emissions in 25 years. Again, there are particular circumstances and in the US the development of coal seam gas and better energy efficiency have been major contributors.
The role of innovation –technological, economic and financial - in helping achieve global net zero emissions was also a theme of much discussion at the summit.
In the case of California, the state already gets more than half its power from sources that do not emit carbon (making its target of an 100 per cent emissions free energy system by 2045 seem not insurmountable), sales of electric cars continue to grow exponentially. Additionally the state has one of the world’s most stringent building codes.
China had one of (if not the) largest delegations of any country at the summit. The transformative role technology is playing in helping China meet its efficiency targets and growing energy needs - including through massive investment in renewables - was not lost on the 4000 or so delegates – although clearly much more is needed.
Paul Orton is Head of Project & Export Finance, Institutional Banking at ANZ