"State lawmakers can effectively drive legislation to fight global warming on a broad scale," said Fran Pavley, a former state assembly woman behind two of California's landmark bills, describing her efforts in a standing-room only session at General Assembly Her work is one example of legislation backed by the relatively new Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California. The group is one of an emerging national network of state Unitarian Universalist (UU) legislative groups.
Climate change has broad implications for health, farming and water supply, among other things. "Every year the mountain snow pack in California, which is a major part of our water supply, melts a little earlier," said Pavley. "When I got started working in environmental legislation, I didn't think we would see so much tangible evidence of global warming in my lifetime as we are already seeing today," she added.
Pavley described work on Assembly Bill (AB) 32, which she co-sponsored, that mandates reduction in green house gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. As a freshman legislator, she sponsored AB 1493 that called for reducing car emissions by thirty percent using existing technologies. "As a former junior high school teacher, I had no idea I was taking on major oil and car companies," Pavley said.
Her bill ultimately passed, and its standards are being adopted by as many as thirteen other states. However, major car makers are challenging the legislation in courts in three states today, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is delaying giving California a key waiver to set standards higher than those of the federal government.
Pavley made a strong case for why individual states, especially the large ones such as California, need to push the envelope in laws on global warming. "California is the twelfth largest source of greenhouse gases in the world, and 42 percent of those emissions come from cars and light trucks," Pavley said.
"Creating broad coalitions is an important key to getting tough global warming bills passed," Pavley said. Some business leaders, particularly in the high tech sector, have recently become significant backers of global warming legislation. They hope the laws will help make California a leading source and market for clean technologies that can be exported around the world. "If we don't champion these technologies here, Europe or Asia may come to dominate," Pavley said. "We in California are calling it the greening of the bottom line," she quipped.
Both Republication Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Paul Newman also have been among her supporters. "We like to call the governor our Climate Action Hero; he likes that. He says, "Fran writes the bills and I get the credit for them,' and he laughs," she said.
When AB 32 came up for a vote, her coalition drafted Paul Newman to call female legislators to lobby for the bill. "We had to ask him to stop as soon as some legislators got offended, and said they would pull their votes," she joked.
In a more serious vein, Pavley noted the nuclear power industry has started to use the global warming crisis as an opportunity to lobby for itself. "We are glad that even our Republican governor has said he cannot support this move unless they can show new and better ways of handling nuclear waste," Pavley said.
Lindi Ramsden, executive director of the UU Legislative Ministry of California, called on attendees to get involved with their emerging state level UU groups to support global warming and other environmental legislative efforts. About ten states have UU state legislative groups today.
Reported by Rick Merritt; edited by Pat Emery.
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Last updated on Sunday, February 12, 2012.
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