The move comes as the state battles historic wildfires, following a summer of record-high temperatures. “We can’t continue down this path,” Gavin Newsom said.
“If you care about your kids and your grandkids, if you care about disadvantaged communities, if you care about seniors, if you care about rural communities, if you care about inner city communities that have been underserved by our fossil fuel economy, then you care about the core construct that we are advancing here in this executive order,” he added.
The transportation sector is responsible for 80% of California’s smog-forming pollution and 95% of the state’s toxic diesel emissions. Transportation is California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but the targeted goal of the ban would reduce such emissions by 35%, Newsom said.
“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe,” Newsom said in a 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.”
Related: Generation Z drivers push for schools to teach with eco-conscious cars
The order, which requires that all new passenger vehicles sold in California by 2035 be zero-emission, “will improve air quality as well as improve the economic climate here in the state of California”, Newsom said. In his announcement Wednesday, he drummed up the creation of “green-collar jobs” among the state’s 34 electric vehicle manufacturers – more than any other state in the nation.
“Our second largest export in the state of California are electric vehicles,” he said. “Those 34 manufacturers, those public trading manufacturers, represent close to half a trillion dollars of market capitalization, some $500bn … this is an economic opportunity.”
Newsom’s order makes California the first state in the US – a country driven by its automotive industry – to implement such a plan. At least 15 other countries including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have made similar pledges. As in the other countries, Californians can still own gas-powered cars and sell them on the used-car market under the order.
The order also requires all medium and heavy-duty trucks be 100% zero-emission by 2045 “where feasible”.
Mary Creasman, the chief executive officer of the California League of Conservation Voters, applauded Newsom’s order, pointing out that with California being the fifth largest economy in the world, such mandates will have “a ripple effect by increasing clean transportation options globally”.
However, she felt that more needs to be done to combat the climate crisis. “This is a real step forward, and the next few steps need to follow soon behind,” she said.
The Transportation Fairness Alliance – which represents organizations in the auto and petroleum industry, among others – claimed that, according to its own data, “more than 95% of all US consumers” preferred cars with internal combustion engines. “California should recognize this preference and acknowledge this proposal is not the most efficient or consumer-oriented means of reducing emissions,” the group said in a statement.
Newsom has turned his focus on the climate crisis in recent days, after a freak August lightning storm ignited some of the state’s largest wildfires in its history, cloaking much of the west coast in smoke. “The debate is over on climate change,” he tweeted. “Just come to the state of California.”
Newsom signed the order on the hood of an electric Ford Mustang.
Video: California to ban new gas engine car sales by 2035 (Associated Press)