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When it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of the United States, California boldly and unapologetically leads the way. California’s ambitious approach to fighting climate change is a direct result of the devastating impact the neglect of the environment has had on the lives of Californians. From recent droughts and water shortages to devastating wildfires, California receives the brunt of the negative effects of global warming. When the rest of the United States decides to catch up, it can learn a lot from policies the golden state has implemented. Here are four of the most important contributions California has made to counter climate change. 

1. Solar Power Mandate 

The California solar mandate requires all new residential construction to have solar energy as a primary source of power starting in 2020. An exemption is made for buildings over three-stories tall, as it becomes difficult to accommodate for building size. Established in 2018, this mandate was established with the goal of having at least half of the state’s energy come from clean sources by 2030. Because the installation of solar panels occurs during construction, the cost can conveniently be wrapped into the buyer’s mortgage. Solar panel installation has become increasingly affordable over the last few years and data shows a majority of consumers have at least contemplated implementing it into their own homes regardless of geographic location. Get a solar quote to see how it fits within your budget.

2. Reduction of Fuel Consumption 

California has sought to reduce its greenhouse emissions by focusing on the transportation sector. To do this, the state implemented strategies to reduce fuel consumption. Without leadership from the federal government, California set its own fuel-efficiency standards, requiring the auto industry to make cars that get 51 miles per gallon by 2026. An exception was made for larger trucks, however the current bill states there can be no visible smoke emanating from the exhaust.

In addition, California gives incentives and rebates to buyers of electric cars. California has the largest plug-in car market share of any state, beating the national average of 1.1% by 4.8%. It is estimated that electric cars will be more affordable than their gas counterparts by 2026, and by 2040, half of all cars manufactured will be electric.

3. Initiatives to Prevent Fires

Perhaps the most visible impact of climate change for Californians is its devastating wildfires. In order to combat these fires, California has been working on prevention initiatives, including clearing brush near highways and disposing of dead trees. The state is also utilizing prescribed fires, which are small, managed fires that burn away debris that can feed larger, uncontrollable fires. Forest management is the first step in countering this life endangering situation. 

When it was suspected the fires of 2018 were started by a California utility, more oversight was put into place requiring the largest utilities fireproof their equipment, an investment of $5 billion. 

4. Mandatory Recycling 

California has been a leader in the reduction of solid waste which would contribute to landfill methane emissions without recycling. In 2015, California enacted several bills requiring all commercial and government entities to recycle, which includes apartment complexes. In addition, each city is required to provide education on the benefits of recycling in addition to promoting their own recycling program. One bill creates tax exemptions for businesses in the purchase of any equipment used in the process of recycling. The goal of these initiatives was to increase recycling by 75% in 2020. 

California is a state who has proven its ambition for improving the lives of its citizens and the state of the environment. No state has been more aggressive in promoting clean energy, reducing carbon emissions or mandating recycling. Even the new practices being implemented for forestry management will improve air quality and human health. By studying each of these initiatives implemented by California, people can learn how to implement changes in their own lives to curb the carbon footprint of their own cities and states.