Annual Report 2023

Building on our progress toward a climate-safe California

Building on our progress toward a climate-safe California

Letter from CEO Ellie Cohen and Board Chair Susan A. Thomas

Ellie Cohen, CEO
Susan Thomas
Susan Thomas, Board Chair

When people around the world think about climate change, they think about California. That’s because our state has a reputation as a leader in clean energy — and because we’re experiencing firsthand an escalating climate emergency that’s claiming more lives every year.

Virtually every person on Earth was touched by the climate crisis in 2023. New climate-fueled disasters hit almost daily, with “once-in-a-generation” extremes becoming more and more frequent. California alone experienced floods, wildfires, heat waves, and a tropical storm all within months of each other.

While our friends and neighbors are doing everything they can to stay safe, fossil fuel interests are fighting harder than ever to block climate progress. For them, delay and lies are the new denial — and they’re just as deadly.

The latest science tells us that there is still a path to a climate-safe future for all, but our window of opportunity to avoid disastrous climate tipping points is rapidly narrowing. The world desperately needs climate leaders like California to transition away from polluting fossil fuels at the speed and scale the climate crisis demands. 

This call for accelerated, equitable climate action is why The Climate Center exists. 

Since launching our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign four years ago, our team has been laser-focused on making bold climate solutions a reality in California. History shows that California’s bold policies spark climate progress around the nation and the world. 

Our work is already having an impact in Sacramento. We secured billions of dollars for decentralized, clean energy, prioritizing frontline communities. We organized dozens of partners and passed a law boosting nature-based climate solutions. We catalyzed Governor Newsom to champion accelerated timelines for net-negative emissions. We opened up the possibility of EVs offering bidirectional charging capability so we can keep the lights on and power the electrical grid. We became an official NGO Observer to the United Nations global climate conferences, helping California’s decision makers bring back fresh inspiration for cutting-edge legislation from around the world. 

That’s not all. We publish policy papers to educate California lawmakers, we hold webinars with elected and local leaders, and mobilize thousands of activists to push for accelerated, equitable climate policy. 

Building on these recent successes, we’re proud to introduce our next three-year vision. With the same commitment to accelerated, equitable climate action, The Climate Center will continue to raise the bar for climate leadership, even in the face of fossil fuel attacks. Our strategy is ambitious because the climate crisis demands nothing less; we must get California back on track for a climate-safe future.

You — our dedicated donors, activists, and volunteers — are the foundation of this vision. The climate crisis is no longer a distant threat, it is part of our lives, something we must confront on a daily basis. 

So let’s keep working together. As a unified community, we are so powerful. Together, we will build a California beyond fossil fuels, one in which everyone can enjoy clean air and water and in which nature and our communities thrive. We will build a climate-safe future for all.

With gratitude,

Ellie Cohen, CEO, The Climate Center

Susan A. Thomas, Chair of the Board, The Climate Center

Who We Are

Our mission

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California.

We believe in vibrant, healthy communities. We envision a future where everyone in California enjoys clean air and water, renewable and reliable energy, healthy food, thriving nature, and more. California has the tools and know-how to make this vision a reality — if our elected leaders act with the urgency the climate crisis demands. 

Building on the success of our Climate-Safe California campaign, The Climate Center recently introduced a new three-year strategic plan for accelerated, equitable climate action. We will continue to work collaboratively with a wide range of partners to enact the suite of policies necessary for California to catalyze greater climate action nationally and globally. Our focus is on three areas:

  1. Rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions: Significantly reduce climate pollution as soon as possible by a) setting bold, science-based targets; b) developing a statewide implementation plan for the managed transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy; c) ending state subsidies to oil and gas interests; and d) providing science-based alternatives to false solutions promoted by Big Oil. 
  2. Build a Grid for the Future that is clean, reliable, affordable, decentralized, and safe: Advocate for legislative and regulatory incentives that support local, clean energy (such as rooftop solar and microgrids) and value their benefits for resilience, reliability, and job creation. Enact policies that promote energy storage using electric vehicle batteries to power our homes, businesses, and the grid as we face more power outages from climate extremes. Launch initiatives to reform the compensation structure for corporate utilities.
  3. Scale up natural carbon sequestration: Ensure that California sets ambitious, science-based targets for drawing down existing climate pollution through nature-based strategies. Enact policies that grow the workforce and infrastructure needed to deliver on these targets. Secure the resources needed to implement climate-beneficial practices on natural and working lands at scale while building resilience to climate extremes. 

Achieving this suite of policies will put California on track to remove more climate pollution from the atmosphere than we emit as soon as possible. That’s how we’ll keep our friends and loved ones safe from worsening climate disasters, create millions of family-sustaining jobs, and give everyone the chance to thrive in the clean energy economy. 

Working collaboratively, we will ensure California advances its leadership commensurate with the rapidly worsening climate reality. California can create a model to be adopted by other states, the nation, and the world. 

There are a lot of great organizations up in Sacramento. They help out in different ways. But I have to say, The Climate Center is always there. To me, it’s one of the top two organizations out of all of the environmental groups that are in Sacramento. I love The Climate Center because they’re focused. They’re focused on California and focused on climate.

State Senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo)

Our Impact

Last Chance Alliance activists at a rally in Sacramento. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

Advocacy for accelerated, equitable climate policies

Advancing bidirectional charging: We led the charge for clean, reliable, distributed energy in the California legislature, mobilizing nearly 200 organizations to support SB 233 (Skinner). This bill — the first of its kind in the nation — will allow California to leverage electric car and school bus batteries to keep the power on during climate disasters. We secured an editorial in the Los Angeles Times and an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle supporting this vision. Our work to pass this bill into law will continue in 2024 with co-sponsors Nuvve and the Union of Concerned Scientists. In late 2023, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-California) introduced federal legislation modeled on SB 233.

Leading on natural carbon sequestration: In 2022, we led the movement to pass AB 1757 (C. Garcia and R. Rivas), a law to scale up natural climate solutions in California. This year, we continued in a leadership role, co-chairing the state Natural and Working Lands Coalition and convening two dozen partners to work directly with state agencies and the new expert advisory committee to set ambitious targets for natural carbon sequestration. We also co-led the effort that restored hundreds of millions of dollars to the state budget for natural climate solutions.

Overcoming Big Oil’s influence in Sacramento: We met with the Newsom administration to outline actions the governor should take for urgently-needed, accelerated, equitable climate action. We also secured an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee shining a light on the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to subvert our democracy. The op-ed concludes: “Lies, public manipulation and underhanded tactics have been a part of the fossil fuel industry’s playbook for decades … It’s time for Governor Gavin Newsom and other California leaders to wise up to the industry’s dirty tricks and put a stop to them.” In September 2023, the governor announced a landmark lawsuit against major oil corporations for their decades of deceit about the climate crisis. 

Holding corporate climate polluters accountable: We activated thousands of our supporters to help pass a suite of bills holding corporate polluters accountable, including: 

  • SB 253, the Corporate Climate Data Accountability Act, which requires U.S.-based corporations doing business in California that make over $1 billion annually to publicly disclose their full carbon footprint;
  • SB 261, the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act, which requires corporations, financial institutions, and insurers to report on climate-related financial risk;
  • AB 1167, the Orphan Well Bonding Requirements Act, which requires that new owners and operators of oil and gas wells post bonds to pay for properly closing them before they are abandoned, instead of sticking taxpayers with the bill; and
  • SB X1-2, a first-in-the-nation law designed to prevent gas price-gouging and curb oil corporations’ windfall profits. 

Policy research and outreach 

Our research, reports, and webinars provide guidance to policymakers, partners, and activists on how to make bold ideas a reality in California. These research papers help to demystify complex topics, as well as direct state policies and investments toward the most equitable, effective climate solutions.

This year, we produced:

Our webinar program has reached more than 7,000 activists, business leaders, and government officials at all levels and engaged them to take action for a climate-safe future. 

As an official observer organization to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) we secured entrance badges for California legislators and other state decision-makers to attend COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom and COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This allowed state leaders to share California’s climate progress on a global stage while also learning from their counterparts around the world, catalyzing bolder action at home. Our delegation will travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for COP28 in December.

Mobilizing for policy change

The Climate Center now has 15,000 climate activists in our network — more than double since the launch of our Climate-Safe California campaign. We work with hundreds of partners across the state, including regional and local climate organizations, faith-based groups, labor, local government, and more than 60 businesses. 

Partnerships are critical to our success. We’re actively engaged in multiple statewide and regional coalitions, including the Building Decarbonization Coalition, the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Charge Ahead Coalition, Coalition for a California Green New Deal, Green California, Healthy Soils Network, Last Chance Alliance, Let’s Green CA, the Orange County Climate Coalition, ​​the Refinery Transitions Working Group, VISIÓN Allies, and more. 

We also lead coalitions, including:

  • Microgrid Equity Coalition: The Microgrid Equity Coalition includes Reclaim Our Power, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Alliance for Community Energy, Vote Solar, the Sierra Club, and Grid Alternatives. Together, we advocate for environmental justice in proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission. This year, The Climate Center brought on a new Community Energy Resilience Project Manager to help our local partners access federal and state funding for clean, resilient, distributed energy projects. 
  • Natural and Working Lands Coalition: The Climate Center co-convenes 26 organizations from across California to advance natural carbon sequestration and other natural climate solutions. These include the California Climate and Agriculture Network, Carbon Cycle Institute, Pacific Forest Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, TreePeople, and more.

California Climate Policy Summit and Lobby Day: In April 2023, we hosted the second annual California Climate Policy Summit in Sacramento. With nearly 300 people in attendance, we brought together climate and environmental justice leaders, business and labor leaders, and state policymakers in pursuit of accelerated, equitable climate action. Featured speakers included numerous California legislators, Lauren Sanchez, the governor’s Senior Climate Advisor, activist and Goldman Prize-winner Nalleli Cobo, who spoke about the impact of oil and gas production on frontline communities.

Regional convenings: The Climate Center hosted several regional events, building community power for accelerated state climate policy. These included an October 2022 gathering in Los Angeles, Accelerating Action for a Climate-Safe California, co-hosted by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and the Los Angeles Business Council. Speakers included The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen, Los Angeles City Council Member Nithya Raman, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commissioner Cynthia M. Ruiz.

Climate-Safe California endorsements: As of November 2023, we’ve secured 2,366 endorsements of the Climate-Safe California platform, including 97 elected officials, 166 non-governmental organizations, 131 businesses, 12 local governments, and more than 1,000 individuals throughout California. 

Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, speaks at the California Climate
Policy Summit 2023 in Sacramento. Photo  By Lara Abduraman / Survival Media Agency.
Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, speaks at the 2023 California Climate Policy Summit in Sacramento. Photo by Lara Abduraman / Survival Media Agency.

When we come together collectively, we have a louder, broader voice for change. That’s why we became a Platinum-level Business Network member with The Climate Center.

Mark Soiland, Owner of Soiland Company

Climate-Safe California

Climate-Safe California is built on four pillars:

  • Phase out fossil fuels from vehicles, electricity, our homes, and more;
  • Invest in resilient communities and clean energy systems;
  • Scale up carbon sequestration in soils and biomass; and
  • Unlock public and private funding for climate action.

These initiatives fit together like pieces of a puzzle: we need to pursue all of them in tandem to deliver on the promise of a climate-safe future. If we can do this in California — the fifth-largest economy in the world — we can do it anywhere. As goes California, so goes the world.

Our Approach

The Climate Center makes change through an ambitious and achievable vision, developing science-based research to drive policy, and mobilizing a powerful coalition of climate advocates and partners across sectors.

Together with local governments, labor unions, business leaders, environmental organizations, climate justice advocates, and more, we’re pushing lawmakers in Sacramento to enact accelerated, equitable climate policies.

These bold policies then unleash innovation across the economy and channel market forces, making climate-friendly choices accessible to everyone. 

Our Guiding Principles

All of The Climate Center’s work is guided by three core principles: follow the science, prioritize climate justice for frontline communities, and secure a just transition for workers. 

  • Follow the latest science. We know that the bar for climate action is set by what science demands and the climate impacts people are already experiencing, not what pundits deem possible. We’re working to bring California’s climate ambition in line with what the latest science says is necessary.
  • Prioritize climate justice. Marginalized communities — Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian people as well as working-class communities across race — are bearing the brunt of California’s climate crisis. The fossil fuel economy prioritizes short-term profit over people’s health. Working together, we can ensure that all Californians enjoy equitable access to climate solutions and the benefits of clean energy.
  • Secure a just transition for workers. As we transition away from oil and gas and toward renewable energy, policymakers must ensure fossil fuel workers and their families aren’t left behind. That means creating millions of family-sustaining jobs in clean energy, providing workforce training and job placement for workers in transition, and protecting workers’ pensions and healthcare benefits.
Climate march in New York City in September of 2023. Photo by Amanda Kistler.

Together, we can make a difference

The climate crisis is hitting harder and faster than scientists predicted even a few years ago. Experts report that continuing to burn fossil fuels has pushed us to the brink of multiple climate tipping points, fundamentally changing the natural systems that regulate the Earth’s climate. 

The results are devastating. This year alone, California has been hit by record-setting heat waves, floods, wildfires, and even a tropical storm. Thousands of Californians have lost power, lost their homes, and even lost their loved ones because of these escalating disasters. 

Globally, climate extremes continue to harm those who contributed the least to the climate crisis the most, while polluting corporations fight to continue business as usual. The longer we delay action, the more costly these disasters become — in both dollars and human lives. 

We have the power to change this story and secure a climate-safe future for all. Confronting this crisis requires bold, comprehensive government action now. Working together, we can ensure that California catalyzes the world into accelerated, equitable climate action.

The Arntz Family Foundation supports the work of The Climate Center because we believe bold action using the latest science to inform policy change is vital to solving our climate crisis. An investment in The Climate Center is an investment in the collective health of the world by way of California leadership.

Julie Arntz, Executive Director of the Arntz Family Foundation


Securing a strong and thriving organization: We ended our 2023 fiscal year achieving our budget goal of just over $3 million thanks to you! We’ve grown considerably since 2019, when The Climate Center’s budget was $1.3 million, and still work hard to raise every dollar we need to invest in urgent, collaborative climate action.

Guided by our new FY 2024-2026 Strategic Plan, we will need to raise almost $14 million over the next three years.

We plan to hire several new staff positions to achieve our bold Climate-Safe California vision. These new team members will work collaboratively to further build The Climate Center’s base of donors, activists, and volunteers in California. 

We could not do any of this without our generous donors — thanks again! We are always eager to hear from you with questions and feedback. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at

Funding Sources 2023

Individual donations$1,896,18057%
Business sponsorships$318,10210%
Foundation grants$885,00027%
Government grants$136,6314%
In-kind support$22,2151%
Conference tickets$28,8761%
Interest and investment activity, net$13,1260%
TOTALInterest and investment activity, net100%

Expenses 2023

Management and general$384,66613%

For detailed financial statements, click here.