National goal would aim for 50 percent clean energy by 2030

Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Barbara Boxer

Every day we see more headlines about the escalating impacts of climate change: 2015 was the warmest year on record; February had the biggest temperature spike in modern history; and sea levels are rising faster than they have in 2,800 years.

Scientists have been warning us about climate change for decades, and today we are seeing the real, tangible effects on our communities. In California, and across the country, we are experiencing the impacts of extreme weather – wildfires, droughts and flooding – which disrupt our local economies and harm the environment. The evidence is clear: We simply must reduce dangerous carbon pollution for the sake of our children and grandchildren, before it is too late.

California has set the most ambitious climate and renewable energy targets in the country, serving as a model for the nation in addressing our changing climate. We’ve established targets to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, putting us on the path to cutting emissions 80 percent by 2050.

By the end of the next decade, at least half of California’s electricity will come from renewable sources, like wind and solar. When you add in our state’s strong energy efficiency standards, California has become a global leader in clean energy.

California’s leadership is not only contributing to a healthier climate, it is also improving our economy. Expanding the use of clean energy is supporting job growth in California, and many of these jobs – such as installing solar roofs – cannot be shipped overseas.

Today, there are more than 2,300 solar companies in California, employing more than 75,000 workers, a number that is expected to rise to 90,000 jobs by the end of this year. California is also a national leader when it comes to the wind industry – with more than 3,000 wind energy jobs and 15 manufacturing facilities.

But our efforts to reverse the changing climate through a strong clean-energy economy cannot stop in California. That’s why we are supporting a new federal effort to set a national goal of powering our country with more than 50 percent clean and carbon-free energy by 2030.

We have co-sponsored resolutions introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., that call on Congress to enact legislation to meet this clean energy goal. A recent report estimated that achieving this “50 by 30” transition to clean energy will result in more than 1 million new American jobs by 2030 and up to 2 million jobs by 2050.

A national transition to a clean energy economy will not only help avoid the worst effects of climate change, but will also boost our economy. We have seen the job growth associated with transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind. According to the Solar Foundation, the solar industry in the United States added jobs nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy in 2015. Today, there are more Americans employed in the solar and wind industries than in coal mining.

And, a clean energy economy makes good financial sense. The costs of wind and solar energy are now competitive with traditional electricity sources. Clean energy policies translate into real savings for families – electric bills for California households are on average 18 percent lower than the rest of the nation.

It is in our nation’s DNA to turn a problem into an opportunity, and in California, we have shown that clean energy works. It is time for the rest of the nation to follow. By passing the “50 by 30” resolution at the federal level, Congress has an opportunity to put our country on a path toward a clean energy future that improves our economy while reinforcing our commitment to reducing dangerous carbon pollution.

Sen. Barbara Boxer is a Democratic senator from California. Contact her at Rep. Doris Matsui is the Democratic congresswoman representing Sacramento. Contact her at