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What’s at stake for climate policy

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Gavin Newsom, governor of California, speaks during a ‘Vote No’ recall campaign event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California voters will decide whether to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a Sept. 14 recall election. While Newsom has taken only moderate actions to curb climate change, replacing him could result in a rollback of green policies such as phasing out fracking and gasoline-powered vehicles, and would have national implications for efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

There are 46 challengers running to unseat Newsom. Of the 24 Republican candidates on the ballot, many want to roll back the state’s ambitious plans to address climate change and transition to cleaner energy.

Newsom will be removed from office if more than 50% of voters choose to recall him. The governor appears increasingly likely to hold onto his seat, with polls in the last few weeks showing that voters favor keeping him in office.

Conservative radio host Larry Elder, a supporter of former President Donald Trump who has consistently spread climate misinformation, has emerged as the clear front-runner if Newsom loses.

Elder has said that he seeks to “stop the war on oil and gas” and argues that “global warming alarmism is a crock.” He has also repeatedly denied the role of climate change in California’s worsening wildfire season, instead blaming the blazes on a lack of forest management.

During an interview with ABC News in the Caldor Fire zone in Northern California, Newsom pushed back on Elder’s comments on climate, arguing his opponent “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about when it comes to the issue of climate and climate change.”

Another top candidate, GOP businessman John Cox, has argued the state should produce more natural gas and become the “Saudi Arabia of the West,” and has maintained that climate regulations have increased costs in the state.

“Between wildfires, dirty air and drought, our state is in a near-constant state of emergency,” said Victoria Rome, California government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We absolutely do not have time to waste with an anti-science governor.”

Republican gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder campaigns against current California Governor Gavin Newsom during the recall election for California governor in Los Angeles, California, September 2, 2021.

Mike Blake | Reuters

What a new governor could do

A new governor would be unlikely to dismantle any major climate legislation in California, especially given the Democratic state legislature and the gubernatorial re-election in 2022. Still, a great deal of California’s climate policy is achieved through executive order and administrative action, both of which a new governor could change or reverse.

“While a new governor would not be able to mount a legislative attack on California climate policy, they would be able to slow down, redirect and even reverse the…

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What’s at stake for climate policy

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