California and Michigan on Wednesday announced new steps to combat climate change, as wildfires continue to tear across the West Coast and hurricane season stretches into the Greek alphabet for named storms.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, issued an executive order on Wednesday that will require sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 – essentially putting a deadline on a ban of the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks in the Golden State. This measure would yield a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide, according to a news release from Newsom’s office. Californians will still be allowed to own and sell used gasoline-powered cars.
“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe,” Newsom said in a written statement. “Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”
The announcement comes as California, Oregon and Washington continue to battle forest fires that have stretched firefighters thin. California has seen five of its largest fires on record in this season alone, according to Reuters.
Photos: Wildfires Rage Across the West
California was not the only state to announce new climate change efforts on Wednesday. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan issued an executive order to create a climate plan to make the state carbon-neutral by 2050. Michigan faced its own natural disaster in August, when a powerful derecho tore through the Midwest, according to The Associated Press. Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois announced a plan similar to Whitmer’s just days after the derecho caused property damage and power outages in his state, according to NBC Chicago.
“The science is clear – climate change is directly impacting our public health, environment, our economy, and our families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This dangerous reality is already causing harm throughout Michigan, with communities of color and low-income Michiganders suffering disproportionately, which is why I’m taking immediate action to protect our state.”
The new steps in California and Michigan also come as climate change efforts have largely stalled across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, with state budgets being crunched by the monthslong economic downturn.
States hoping to impose climate-friendly plans have also had to contend with the Trump administration. In March, the administration announced a rule that relaxed vehicle mileage standards through 2026 – rolling back ambitious efforts by former President Barack Obama, the AP reported. President Trump previously announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a commitment by many countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rise in global temperatures.