Kevin de León, in a speech to world-renowned climate scientists at the Vatican, assailed the “fake news and alternative facts spewing out of Washington” in arguing that California’s economy is thriving in large part because of its emphasis on enacting sweeping environmental legislation.
“We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress – at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility,” de León, leader of California’s Senate, said.
His address, which came Friday at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, focused heavily on democratizing climate policies so the benefit of clean energy reaches every economic level.
“Equity and environmental justice are now hardwired into all of our climate policies in an unprecedented way,” he said.
The pontifical climate event, attended by Gov. Jerry Brown, scientists and religious leaders from around the world, takes a deep look at vast number of impacts of a warming planet. Scientists presented on everything from cook stoves in developing counties to the perils of raising animals for meat.
De León, who arrived in Rome after announcing his challenge of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has cast himself as the choice of environmentalists in blue California.
Among his priorities before leaving the state Senate next year is a bill to establish an overall target of making 100 percent of retail sales of electricity clean, zero carbon, and renewable energy by 2045.
He defended the state’s newly extended cap-and-trade system after such market mechanisms were questioned by Pope Francis in his encyclical letter on the environment. Francis wrote that the trading of carbon credits “may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”
De León pointed to his Senate Bill 535, which directs a quarter of the auction proceeds to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.
“We recognized – as Pope Francis rightfully points out – that those most impacted by air pollution and the consequences of climate change benefit least from market-based programs like cap and trade,” he said.
His reference to the Trump administration’s use of fake news and alternative facts was one of several mentions of a president who famously pledged to pull the United States from the Paris climate accords.
But while Washington retreats, California has fundamentally altered the political landscape of environmentalism, he said.
“It’s no longer just the pastime of the privileged. We’re building a movement from the ground up. I like to say we’re teaching electric cars to speak Spanish.”