California Emerges as Climate Leader as U.S. Government Steps Out
As the Trump White House sets out to obliterate environmental regulation and, now, withdraws from the landmark Paris climate agreement, California is emerging as a key line of defence and “the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment,” the New York Times reports.
“The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord,” the paper notes. “In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states—and to nations—on how to fight climate change.”
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With a population of 39 million and annual economic output of US$2.4 trillion, California is more populous than many countries, including Canada, and boasts the world’s sixth-largest economy. And climate change is one of the main areas where Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is making his stand against the new U.S. administration.
“I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track, and lead in all the ways California has,” he said. “We’re looking to do everything we can to advance our program, regardless of whatever happens in Washington.”
Late last year, Brown famously vowed that California will “launch its own damn satellites” if the Trump administration carried through with its threat to defund NASA climate research. That statement led The Nearly Now to publish a gorgeous account, datelined January 27, 2025, in which California Gov. Michael Jimenez feted the launch of the state’s first geostationary satellite, named Moonbeam as a homage to Brown.
The Times notes that California’s commitment to climate solutions has crossed party lines. And so does its pushback against the Trump agenda.
“Saying you’ll bring coal plants back is the past,” said former Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It’s like saying you’ll bring Blockbuster back, which is the past. Horses and buggies, which is the past. Pagers back, which is the past.”
That wide consensus, and the resulting state policies, have positioned California to lead when the U.S. federal government refuses to, according to Nobel scientist Mario Molina of Mexico. “With Trump indicating that he will withdraw from climate change leadership, the rest of the global community is looking to California, as one of the world’s largest economies, to take the lead,” he told the Times. “California demonstrates to the world that you can have a strong climate policy without hurting your economy.”