By Mary Solecki

California has again put to shame the notion that environmental action comes at a cost to the economy. In fact, California’s economic success is in part due to – not in spite of – its commitment to fight climate change.

While the Trump administration twists itself into a pretzel trying to justify coal mining and fracking as the best ways to keep Americans working, new California statistics prove that clean energy can produce electricity and jobs, as well as cleaner air and a stronger economy.

A study released June 19 by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) shows that California’s clean energy sector has produced more than 519,000 jobs, while the state and private sector have invested more than $45 billion – much of it into expansion of solar and wind power generation and energy efficiency. Other highlights from the report include:

  • $1.2 billion in cap-and-trade funds have been implemented across the state
  • 50 percent of cap-and-trade funds have benefitted disadvantaged communities
  • The carbon emissions reductions have been equivalent to keeping 3.2 million cars off the road

The E2 report was based on an analysis of numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Energy. It provides data on jobs, investment and emissions reductions in every California state Senate and Assembly district. It also looked at state and private investments from a variety of climate programs over the past decade.

E2 found the top 10 California counties for clean energy jobs are: Los Angeles (117,000 jobs), San Diego (61,500), Orange (45,200), Santa Clara (34,300), Sacramento (23,700), Alameda (22,100), Riverside (20,500), San Bernardino (19,800), San Francisco (18,200), and Contra Costa (13,300).

The top 10 metro areas are: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Anna (161,400 jobs), San Francisco-Oakland-Freemont (72,200), San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos (61,100), Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (40,100), Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville (38,500), San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (34,000), California’s Combined Non-Metropolitan Areas (18,700), Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura (10,900), Santa Rosa-Petaluma (9,400) and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta (8,900).

The study dovetails with a previous report from the California Air Resources Board showing that the state’s economy added jobs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent between 2004 and 2015.

Taken together, it is clear the White House policy of rolling back strong clean energy policies like the federal Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement doesn’t make economic sense and will cost our country high-paying clean energy jobs. And, it’s dangerous in terms of the environment. That’s why California and so many other U.S. states, cities, small businesses and major corporations have announced they are still in when it comes to the Paris agreement.

Although the E2 report contains good news from our climate investments to date, this is no time for complacency. Extension of the cap-and trade program is currently before the Legislature, and anything but certain. Gov. Jerry Brown is urging lawmakers to reauthorize the program with a supermajority vote, which by 2030 would reduce California’s carbon emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels, alongside a suite of complementary measures.

If the state’s cap-and-trade program isn’t reauthorized this year, clean energy investments will slow, and businesses could choose to locate their finite project investments in other states or countries. With news that China and India have increased their commitment to clean energy, capital investments in clean energy just became even more competitive.

Ten years after the first cap-and-trade law, we’ve demonstrated that the best way to build a solid economy is to build a clean economy. Each year, California increases its use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and the state becomes increasingly more energy efficient. It is time to reauthorize our successful cap-and-trade program so that we can continue to reap the benefits of being the world’s leader on clean energy.

Mary Solecki is E2’s Western states advocate. She lives in Santa Cruz.