Overview

Global warming is an emergency with the highest possible stakes: the future of life on Earth.

There are dozens of scalable solutions available now to reverse the climate crisis. The time is right for more aggressive climate action in California, serving as an example to inspire and move the world.

With your support and endorsement of our Climate-Safe California campaign, we and our partners will seize this moment to enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science to put California, and the world, on the path to net-negative emissions by 2030. 

The Current Reality

Climate impacts hitting harder and faster

The latest climate science (here and here) supports what millions of people around the world are experiencing daily: the impacts of climate change are hitting harder and faster than expected, posing grave threats to human health and well-being. Children, the elderly, and people living in low-income communities are disproportionately affected.

With 9 of 15 global tipping points now active, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a safe climate well into the future. As the science and climate reality demand, our only hope for a vibrant, healthy, and equitable future for all is to enact bold climate policies now, not decades from now.

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign translates the urgent need for bold action and the groundswell of public support into actual speed and scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions.

With your partnership and generosity, we will seize this moment to demonstrate in California, the world’s 5th largest economy, how to enact the bold policies required by science to reverse the climate crisis.

Texas Army National Guard rescue by U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West
flickr.com/Oregon Department of Transportation

Economic opportunity in the midst of crisis

The climate crisis is the largest wealth creation opportunity our lifetime, according to renewable resource financier Jigar Shah. Despite initially high-price tags, investments made in solving big problems have an outsized positive impact on societies, communities, and individuals because they stimulate the economy by creating new industries and jobs. Think of transportation solutions such as railroads, automobiles, and airlines or communications solutions such as telecommunications and the internet. Market-driven investments in decarbonizing California is already demonstrating positive economic and societal benefits.

The cost of climate inaction significantly dwarfs the investment needed to secure a vibrant, healthy, and safe future. We need look no further than the financial impact of California’s 2018 fire season for evidence. With total economic losses predicted at $400 billion, it is on track to be the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the U.S.

Guiding Principles

Secure a just transition for workers and support climate justice for lower-income communities

To achieve the urgent goals of Climate-Safe California, these two principles guide every policy for which we advocate.

Secure a just transition

As we transition to a clean energy economy globally and in California, we must ensure that workers and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries are not left behind. Nations all over the world are starting to address this key issue to our collective economic and social well-being.

Support climate justice for lower-income communities

Policymakers must prioritize and support lower-income communities in achieving these rapid decarbonization goals. We must close the climate gap when enacting climate policies to ensure lower-income communities- primarily communities of color due to historic redlining and systemic racism -are no longer disproportionately harmed by the health and economic consequences of fossil fuel development, production, and use. We must also ensure that everyone is able to participate in the clean energy economy.

The Targets 

The Climate Center is working with dozens of partners to seize this moment and enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science that will put California on track for a climate-safe future by 2030. We define Climate-Safe California as having reached net-negative emissions (sequestration greater than emissions or becoming a net carbon sink), achieving initial stages of drawdown. The chart below shows what is needed to achieve a Climate-Safe California by 2030.

Our overarching goal is for California to commit to 80% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions and net-negative emissions by 2030, accelerating timelines for existing state policies. The charts below show where we have been and possible scenarios for achieving our urgent 2030 goal.

Existing state policies call for achieving 80% below 1990 levels of GHGs by 2050 (Governor Schwarzenegger Executive Order S-3-05 2005) and maintaining net-negative emissions after achieving carbon neutrality by no later than 2045 (Governor Jerry Brown Executive Orders B-55-18 2018). The Climate-Safe California campaign calls for an executive order and/or legislation signed into law by no later than 2022 mandating that California accelerate these existing state policy timelines to 2030. Per the increasingly dire warnings of the world’s climate scientists and policy experts, 2050 and 2045 are simply too late. The time is now to put the policies in place that will secure a safe, vibrant future for all.

Reaching 80% below 1990 levels (431 million metric tons -MMT- of CO2e in 2017) equals 86 MMT of CO2e in annual emissions by 2030. With increased investments in nature-based sequestration on natural and working lands starting no later than 2022 (which will also provide numerous other resilience benefits such as water storage, drought, flood and heat reduction, biodiversity, and food security), California can sequester an additional 100+ MMT CO2e annually from the atmosphere by 2030. Combined emissions reductions with sequestration, the state could reach -14 MMT CO2e annually by 2030, starting drawdown as required by the science. Nascent negative emissions technologies could likely scale up by the 2030’s to further increase atmospheric drawdown of GHGs.

Since we cannot address what we don’t measure, we will also work to ensure that state GHG inventories include consumption-based emissions and other out-of-boundary sources no later than 2025.

“The Climate Center’s suite of decarbonization policies are all required to stay below 2°C (3.6°F) warming and avoid dangerous climate chaos. We need aggressive, equitable policies in place now so society can transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy as quickly and safely as possible.”

-Carl Mears, PhD, UN climate scientist and member of The Climate Center’s Board of Directors 

The Plan

How will we reach net-negative emissions by 2030 as the latest science requires?

We call upon the State of California to enact by 2025 the following suite of policies to put us on track for net-negative emissions by 2030:

Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use 

Secure clean, distributed, resilient energy & storage

To secure a safe climate, California must have policies in place by 2025 to achieve 100% GHG-free energy by 2030, starting with an immediate halt to new oil and gas drilling and infrastructure development. California must also achieve rapid increases in distributed energy and storage, as well as a phase-out of all fossil fuel subsidies, production, and refining.

Photovoltaik_Dachanlage_Hannover_-_Schwarze_Heide_-_1_MW by AleSpa

Significantly increase sustainable mobility 

California must pass legislation by no later than 2025 to begin phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles, including cars, trucks, and buses. We must also reprioritize transportation investments to support housing near jobs, equity-focused Vehicle Miles Traveled mitigation banks and other innovative programs that reduce GHG pollution and improve health, especially in disadvantaged communities (ClimateResolve 2018).

Progressive rebates and other incentives for Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) adoption must be increased by 2023 to achieve 50% ZEV cars (7+ million) in the state by 2025 and 90% by 2030. Fifty percent of remaining fossil fuel-powered vehicles must be phased out by 2030.

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Electrify buildings

With buildings accounting for 25% of California’s measured greenhouse gas emissions and our electricity becoming significantly cleaner, we must electrify all new and remodeled buildings while enhancing the efficiency of all existing buildings by 2030. This includes enacting zero-emissions building codes and rapidly phasing out “natural” or methane gas. Methane is 83 times more powerful of a warming compound over its 10-20 year life in the atmosphere. Recent studies show that methane emissions from leaks in major cities are double the amount previously thought, that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction are up to 40% higher than previously thought and that 1/3 of the recent increase in methane emissions globally is due to fracking for methane gas. As Cornell Professor and methane expert Robert Howarth observed, “reducing methane now can provide an instant way to slow global warming.”

Valles Caldera National Preserve cattle by NPS.gov

Increase sequestration 

Ranchers, farmers, public lands managers, and other ecosystem managers must be incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil restoration on California’s rural and urban lands as well as coastal waters (“blue carbon”) to sequester from 100 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalents annually by 2030, if we start now. This would deliver additional benefits such as replenished groundwater, flood protection, drought resilience, greater biodiversity, reduced pollution, increased food production, and reduced pollution.

Nascent industrial carbon removal technologies will likely be valuable down the road but we already know how to manage natural and agricultural lands for sequestration today. Carbon sequestration on natural and working lands has also been identified by the California Air Resources Board as a priority pathway for greenhouse gas reductions. Equally important is protecting existing carbon stocks in soil, vegetation and the ocean.

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Invest in community resilience

New legislation should allocate the needed funding and support to California’s counties and cities to develop and implement climate emergency response and preparedness measures (e.g., as part of their General Plan requirements) no later than 2022. Priority focus should initially be on the most vulnerable, lower-income communities. All California jurisdictions should be implementing resiliency efforts by 2025 including implementing climate-smart ecosystem management, early warning systems, evacuation centers, and comprehensive public education.

In the face of California’s widespread power shutoffs and the rise of dirty fossil-fuel-powered back-up generators due to increases in extreme fire weather, The Climate Center has launched the Community Energy Resilience initiative. The initiative establishes a decentralized power system including community microgrids to serve all Californians —prioritizing low income, high fire risk communities first— with clean, local power and storage. This system will reduce the number of planned and unplanned outages, ensure that essential health, fire, police, food, water and other services would remain powered in communities during outages, and enable utilities to better target specific outages from the larger grid.

Generate the funds needed for speed and scale climate action

New climate action financing mechanisms must be added to the mix of available options by 2025 to generate upwards of $20 billion annually for implementing these urgently needed climate policies. The California legislature can play a key role. These mechanisms include establishing and implementing a frequent flyer fee per passenger from all California airports by 2025. Initial calculations show that there were 240 million passengers at California’s top 8 airports in 2018. If each were charged a $10 Climate-Safe California fee, the state could raise $2.4 billion annually to invest in reversing the climate crisis.

In addition, other funding sources are needed such as a progressive carbon fee and dividend, that charges at the source of greenhouse gas emissions and returns a portion of the funds to taxpayers.

This suite of climate-safe policies is built around the latest science and climate reality. They are subject to revision based on new science and input from our expert advisers.

California State Capitol Building Sacramento by Christopher Padalinski
Climate Strike, by Stephen Smith

Our strategy

Mobilizing for urgent climate action 

We are building upon The Climate Center‘s key role in facilitating the phenomenal growth of Community Choice Energy agencies (CCAs) over the past few years–from two in 2015 to 20 CCAs today serving over 11 million Californians with 88% clean energy.

To fund our multi-pronged Climate-Safe California strategy, The Climate Center is raising $25 million over the next five years, starting with securing $2 million by summer 2020. Over half a million dollars have been secured to date.

With these funds, The Climate Center is hiring expert staff and consultants and leveraging the expertise of our partner organizations to plan and implement key steps that are essential to our success.

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Join us on this urgent journey. We must succeed. And with your help, we will.

Endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform here with the full platform and detailed science references here (pdf).

Please share your feedback and interest in partnering together by emailing us at climatesafe@theclimatecenter.org.

For a campaign prospectus and budget, please contact Karenb @ theclimatecenter.org.

Click here to see scientific citations for this platform.