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Testimony: Californians deserve a chance to vote for the climate this November

People's Climate March in New York City. Photo by @5byseven.
People's Climate March in New York City. Photo by @5byseven.

On July 3, 2024, the California legislature passed SB 867 to put a $10 billion bond to fund climate solutions before voters on the November ballot. To counter massive funding cuts to state climate programs, the bond will provide sustained investment in clean drinking water, wildfire preparedness, sustainable agriculture, and more.

The following expert testimony was given to the legislature by The Climate Center’s Natural Sequestration Initiative Manager Baani Behniwal:

Good afternoon chair and members, my name is Baani Behniwal with The Climate Center. It is 108 degrees outside right now and there is no sign of relief from triple-digit temperatures for the next week. There is no relief for families without access to air conditioning or clean drinking water. There is no relief for farmworkers who are forced to work through these grueling conditions to grow our food. The sad and alarming reality is that the extreme heat we’re facing right now is by far the deadliest weather event in California.

SB 867 addresses this challenge head on by allocating $450 million to extreme heat mitigation, providing much-needed relief to communities across the state. This bond measure also provides critical funding to protect our water supply, forests, farms, coasts, energy assets, and more. The climate crisis isn’t slowing down and neither can we. 

Critically, SB 867 also prioritizes the communities that need it the most by allocating 40 percent of the funding to vulnerable, disadvantaged, and severely disadvantaged communities.

There is a reason why more than 180 organizations strongly support this bond — we know that the climate crisis demands historic and sustained levels of investments, especially in light of budget cuts to critical climate programs this year and a projected budget deficit for the next several years.

 There are myriad state programs that have been forced to shut down their grant applications because they are oversubscribed and don’t have the funding needed to meet demand. For example, according to the State Coastal Conservancy, there are $600 million in shovel-ready, shoreline projects in the Bay Area alone for which funding isn’t currently available. 

If we act now, we can also leverage additional federal funds with these investments, an opportunity we may not have at the federal level for years to come.

California has done a good job setting laudable targets for climate action. This is an imperative first step, but what really matters is how we actualize these goals. As some have said before, we are in an “implementation crisis.” We need to invest in the programs necessary to achieve the vital goals we have set.

We owe it to the Californians dealing with climate disasters right now to give them a chance to make their voices heard in November. For these reasons, I respectfully urge the legislature to approve this bond measure for the November ballot.