This is California’s next step to lead on climate change

Gov. Jerry Brown is shown an exhibition at an international clean energy conference in Beijing, China on June 7.
Gov. Jerry Brown is shown an exhibition at an international clean energy conference in Beijing, China on June 7. Associated Press

California has long been a global leader on climate change and energy innovation. Since the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act a decade ago, other countries have sought to emulate our cutting-edge approach to reducing carbon emissions.

Now, with the Buy Clean California Act, the state has an opportunity to export that leadership directly, through an innovative new approach to industrial pollution.


More than 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the manufacture of products, such as steel and glass, produced in one state or country, but consumed in another. This “carbon loophole” rewards firms that haven’t invested in reducing emissions, while unfairly penalizing those that have.

Assembly Bill 262 would use the state government’s tremendous buying power to close this loophole by setting a new, low-carbon standard for certain industrial products purchased by the state of California. State agencies could only buy products that meet or beat that benchmark, and it ratchets down over time, setting off a “race to the top” in industrial efficiency and use of low-carbon technologies.

The legislation levels the playing field for industrial facilities that have invested to clean up their operations, such as manufacturers in California, while creating a powerful incentive for companies that want access to our $10 billion public infrastructure market.

With the support of the governor and Legislature, investors and business leaders, we’ve shown that California can have a thriving economy that runs on clean energy. Industries that provide products for our roads, bridges and public universities must also play their part.

The Buy Clean Act would signal that California will continue to reward innovations that slash carbon emissions. It takes the next, logical step of extending our climate leadership beyond our borders.

Hal Harvey is CEO of Energy Innovation, an environmental policy firm in San Francisco, and can be contacted at Rob Bonta, an Alameda Democrat, represents the 18th state Assembly District and can be contacted at