Governor Newsom directs CARB to explore 2035 carbon neutrality pathways – The Climate Center response

Santa Rosa, California, July 12, 2021 — Late on Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to explore accelerated action to reduce climate pollution. CARB will model a pathway to carbon neutrality by 2035, ten years ahead of the state’s current goal, and the CPUC will establish a more ambitious emissions target for electricity procurement by 2030. 

In response, The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen said: “This is a vital step in the right direction for Governor Newsom, and we applaud him. However, the science and climate reality demand we do even more. California is feeling the devastating impacts of drought, extreme heat, and wildfires today. Achieving carbon neutrality by the state’s current goal of 2045 is far too late.”

Last week, The Climate Center and 25 other leading California climate and environmental organizations sent a letter to CARB urging them to examine a wider range of accelerated climate action scenarios, including those that achieve carbon neutrality and net-negative emissions sooner than the state’s 2045 deadline. CARB is at the beginning of a months-long process to update its Scoping Plan, which determines pathways for California to reduce emissions and meet its climate goals. 

Ms. Cohen added: “We have the technology and know-how to equitably achieve carbon neutrality followed by net-negative emissions by 2030, but we must act soon. That is the only way to protect the health and safety of frontline communities, ensure water and food security for everyone, and protect wildlife. With climate change escalating faster than models projected, we urge Governor Newsom and CARB Chair Liane Randolph to plan for more ambitious, accelerated scenarios and align the state’s goals with the latest climate science.”

A recent study by California-based scientists and climate experts suggested that net-negative emissions by 2030 is achievable. The Climate Center — a statewide climate and energy policy nonprofit founded in 2001 — has identified a four-pronged approach to reaching net-negative emissions by 2030 in its Climate-Safe California campaign. Endorsed by more than 1,200 climate scientists, policymakers, businesses, and individuals, it calls for:

  • Accelerate the phaseout of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) responsible for the vast majority of climate pollution; 
  • Scale up carbon sequestration solutions on natural and working lands through improved soil and habitat management;
  • Invest in resilient, equitable, climate and clean energy preparedness initiatives; and
  • Increase public funding for climate action to leverage much greater private investment. 

ENDS

Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Communications Director, The Climate Center: ryan@theclimatecenter.org, (415) 342-2386

California’s budget surplus is a historic opportunity for climate-safe investments

We live in an extraordinary time for California’s budget. Despite previous predictions of a major COVID-induced deficit, the state instead is currently sitting on an unprecedented budget surplus to the tune of nearly $100 billion. This presents a massive opportunity to invest in climate resilience, clean energy, green jobs, and more.

The legislative budget process is an evolving, months-long, and often opaque process (learn about it in more detail here). Right now, we’re nearing the end of that process. In accordance with the state’s June 15 deadline, lawmakers voted to adopt a budget earlier this week. However, negotiations between the legislature and the governor are ongoing, and the state’s final budget won’t be revealed until later in the month. Typically by now, lawmakers are debating which pieces of the budget to cut, but that’s not the case with this year’s historic surplus. Instead, they’re debating where to invest

This year’s budget includes several items that we at The Climate Center are excited to see. Due to the enormity of the surplus and unresolved negotiations on the specifics of allocating funding, many of the key items of interest for The Climate Center are in the form of packages. 

Some of the packages to take note of include:

  • $1.2 billion for climate resilience 
  • $2.2 billion for zero-emission vehicles 
  • $835 million for clean energy

These are, without a doubt, historic investments. But there are more details to work out before we can get too excited. How these packages are implemented, how investments are directed, and who controls the money will all be hammered out through additional legislation called trailer bills. It’s vital that the money we invest in climate solutions be doled out equitably, that communities already enduring climate impacts get their fair share, and that we support oil and gas workers as we transition to renewable energy sources. 

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but there’s one thing you can do today. Out of that $1.2 billion resilience package, The Climate Center and our members are pushing to secure funding for community energy resilience. With much of the state already experiencing extreme heat and grid operators warning about the need to curtail power usage, we need solutions that allow our communities to keep power going without relying on fossil-fueled generators. That’s what community energy resilience projects can do — take a moment to write your legislators about community energy resilience today

Finally, while this budget includes significant investments in climate programs, it still falls short of what we need to comprehensively address the climate crisis. The costs of waiting — more devastating fires, burdens on the healthcare system, and more — are so much higher than the costs of taking bold action today. We look at this year’s budget as a downpayment. California is beginning to invest in the kinds of programs that will stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but this can’t be a one-time thing. Creating the safe, healthy, just future all Californians deserve requires sustained, significant investment from our leaders in Sacramento. 

Sonoma County aerial

Petaluma City Council moves to ban new gas stations

by Kathryn Palmer, The Press Democrat 


Highlights

  • The City Council in Petaluma, located in Sonoma County, moved to ban new gas stations by enacting a two-year moratorium
  • Petaluma is the first city in the Nation to enact such a ban
  • The effort is a part of the City’s climate framework for net negative emissions by 2030
  • Current gas stations will have a more streamlined process to add electric vehicle charging stations as well as hydrogen fuel cell stations

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California Campaign includes measures for clean transportation systems. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read More: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/petaluma-city-council-moves-to-ban-new-gas-stations/

Los Angeles Smog by Massimo Catarinella

Choking on fumes: Diesel generators are booming with state funding

In a state that takes pride in claiming to be a world leader in technology and reducing carbon emissions, state and local government decision-makers in California have taken a giant step backward in funding diesel back-up generators to mitigate for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). 

In recent years, power shutoffs have cost California billions of dollars. Unfortunately, too much of the State’s response to date has focused funding on archaic and polluting fossil generators, which have lower upfront costs than clean energy solutions, but higher operating costs, as well as higher costs to public health from air pollution.

Governor Newson correctly laid the blame for power shutoffs on investor-owned utility PG&E for failing to maintain infrastructure. In initially announcing power shutoff mitigation efforts, Governor Newsom said, “For decades, they have placed greed before public safety. We must do everything we can to support Californians, especially those most vulnerable to these events. These funds will help local governments address these events and assist their most vulnerable residents.”   

The recently-completed 2019-20 Legislative Report on the use of $75 million in allocations made to support state and local efforts to mitigate power shutoff events explains how most of the money has been spent: on diesel generators. And except for about $100,000 that Alameda County used to purchase 96 1000-watt personal back-up battery power packs to loan to people reliant on electric-powered medical-support, very little was reported to have been spent by governments to “assist their most vulnerable residents.” 

All 58 counties received $26 million in total, of which $16 million went for fossil-fuel generators and the fuel tanks and controls to operate them. Only one county, Imperial, bought a solar-plus-battery system for $100,000 instead of generators.

As for the 39 cities that were allocated $10 million, $7.3 million went for fossil-fuel generators, fuel tanks and controls. Three cities bought solar-plus-batteries and no generators. They were American Canyon, $300,000; Orinda, 217,417, and Willits, $149,000 (with a population of 4,893). These cities should be commended for their leadership.

Out of $35 million allocated for state agencies, more than $20 million was spent on generators, only $562,500 on solar-plus-batteries.  

The growing use of diesel generators following recent climate change-exacerbated fires is extremely troubling. At a January California Energy Commission workshop on alternatives to diesel, the Climate Advisor to the Bay Area Air Quality District (BAAQMD) reported that highly energy-dependent businesses such as data centers have already added an additional 1000 Megawatts of new diesel generation just in the Bay Area with another 1500 Megawatts expected to come online, further adding to the roughly 80,000 MW statewide that existed in 2018 prior to the devastating 2019 and 2020 PSPS events.  

Diesel generators do not need permits if they are 50 horsepower or less and BAAQMD has no idea how many of those exist. But they have permitted 10,000 diesel generators in the Bay Area district and are finding they are used more than previously thought.  

California’s state and local leaders can and must do better.

That’s why last year The Climate Center launched an initiative for equitable clean and smart microgrids to build Community Energy Resilience. And we are partnering with lawmakers on legislation that supports equitable access to reliable and safe clean energy solutions.  

Learn about these bills and take action today.

As public dollars are invested to enhance resilience, state and local policymakers should focus on clean energy resilience (which can be cheaper over their lifespan than diesel generators) and should focus on prioritizing energy resilience for California’s most vulnerable communities.   

 

A unanimous mistake for Kern County

On Monday, March 8th, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass a revised ordinance supported by oil industry interests to approve over 2,700 new oil wells per year. This amounts to 40,000 new wells by 2036. 

Hundreds of constituents and community leaders spoke out against the ordinance in a daylong board meeting. Many environmental leaders argued that the ordinance would only increase health impacts to surrounding communities as well as cause detriment to the local environment.

Oil wells and hydraulic fracking chemicals contaminate the ground water and drinking water for neighboring communities. These chemicals can potentially lead to cancer, birth defects, and liver damage. In regard to air quality, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides are released into the air and most families living near these sites experience asthma, and other respiratory illness. These families are experiencing long time exposure and it’s non-occupational, just living day in and day out near these wells is harmful. The development of oil and gas can also cause long-term damage to our public lands by disturbing the land, increasing erosion, and stripping vegetation.

Kern County produces 80% of California’s oil and gas. These vested industry interests hold financial clout in the region and that was very apparent with the unanimous decision made by the Kern County Board of Supervisors. 

However, there is hope on the horizon with new legislation: Senate Bill 467 introduced by Senator Scott Wiener and Senator Monique Limón. This bill would halt the renewal of permits for hydraulic fracking starting on January 1, 2022. The bill also restricts all new or modified permits for oil and gas production creating a 2,500 feet buffer zone from any school, community residence, or healthcare facility. 

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign includes the equitable phase-out of fossil fuels with a Just Transition for workers as the first step toward a healthy and vibrant climate-safe future for all Californians. We are working with partners to secure more legislation to this end. We continue to build support for our Climate-Safe California campaign to show that across the state, Californians want an equitable clean energy future. Show your support today by endorsing Climate-Safe California.

Kern County residents who have been failed by their elected representatives and other Californians on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, production, and use are counting on us all to support an end to our fossil fuel reliance. Let’s not let them down.

 

Scott Wiener introduces bill to ban California fracking by 2027

by J.D. Morris, The San Francisco Chronicle


Highlights

  • State Senators Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, introduced a bill that would halt the issuance of permits for fracking and phase out the practice by 2027 
  • Sen. Wiener explains why this bill is so important:

“The world is being strangled right now with climate change…We see it with the wildfires. We see it with the storms in Texas. … California needs to lead in transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward a 100% clean and renewable economy.”

  • The bill also works to instate buffer zones from oil wells and homes, schools, and other community spaces
  • Resistance will definitely stem from the fossil fuel sector
  • Just transition of labor for fossil fuel workers is addressed in this legislation. The bill seeks to create employment opportunities through sealing and cleaning oil well sites 

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform. The Climate Center’s guiding principles in achieving our goals include striving to close the climate gap and ensuring a just transition for workers.


Read More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Scott-Wiener-introduces-bill-to-ban-California-15955300.php

To weather the worsening drought, California needs healthy soils

By Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center, and Torri EstradaCarbon Cycle Institute

This opinion piece was originally published on February 11, 2021 in CalMatters.

California is in the early stages of a severe multi-decadal drought, exacerbated by the climate crisis. As Dan Walters pointed out in his recent op ed, we must move quickly to prepare for water shortages and wildfires.

A potent strategy to improve the state’s water storage capacity involves an ancient technology so ubiquitous that it is often overlooked: soil. The urgency of California’s drought and wildfire risks require that we invest in soil health now. Demand action.

California is an agricultural powerhouse in large part due to its fertile soils. But historical agricultural practices have depleted their organic carbon content and diminished their water holding capacity. When soil’s carbon is restored through regenerative agriculture, it absorbs and retains more water, restores aquifers, draws down and stores more carbon from the atmosphere, sustains biodiversity, yields more and healthier crops, and increases farm profitability.

The ability of carbon-rich soils to store water and be more resilient to drought and extreme weather is well-documented. For every 1% increase in soil organic matter (a key indicator of soil health), an acre stores an estimated 20,000 gallons of additional water. In one experiment, covering the soil surface with a mulch of crop residue, a regenerative practice that protects soil and reduces evaporation, resulted in a 29% reduction in crop irrigation needs compared to uncovered soil. Another study found that covering soil increased its water retention by 74%.

Compost by Karen Preuss

Compost by Karen Preuss

In California, applying compost to soil has been shown to significantly increase water holding capacity and carbon sequestration on rangelands, and is a recommended practice by public resource management agencies. Combining compost application with cover crops boosts carbon sequestration on croplands.

Restoring soil health is a vital component of a climate agenda to ensure a livable climate for future generations. Nearly every climate modeling scenario that limits warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius includes carbon sequestration with soils. Globally, soils have lost about 135 billion tons of carbon. If this process were reversed – taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in soil – about 14 years of our global carbon footprint would be negated. Worldwide, soil carbon sequestration could remove 110 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 50 years, studies show.

Soil health makes good business sense. When soils’ natural functions are restored, they require less fertilizer, pesticide, and chemical inputs. As such inputs shrink, costs fall. At the same time, increased resilience of soil means that crop yields are less variable from year to year. All this is good for farmers’ bottom line.

Improving soil health can improve the resilience of rural farming communities, many of which dwell at the margins of economic viability. Case studies of two California almond farms, Okuye and Rogers, found that after adoption of soil health practices, their net income increased by $657 and $991 per acre, respectively, providing a vital boost to these farmers’ livelihoods.

Action is needed now to provide farmers, ranchers, and other land managers with the support they need. We call on California policymakers to:

  1. Rapidly and significantly increase funding for soil restoration by significantly increasing investments in current efforts such as the Healthy Soils Program and by developing new initiatives to meet the growing demand.
  2. Establish an ambitious and urgently needed target for nature-based sequestration on natural and working lands to 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or an amount of sequestration greater than emissions by 2030 annually in California.

Demand action from your policymakers today.

As the science and climate reality require, California must not only cut emissions further and faster but also start now drawing down emissions we have already dumped into the atmosphere using nature-based approaches, while also providing multiple additional benefits.

To reduce worsening droughts, wildfires, and other devastating climate impacts, it is time for state leaders to step up and take bold action. Improving the health of our soils is key to securing a climate-safe future for all.

Endorse Climate-Safe California today and support our work.

CPUC Approves $200M Investment in Microgrids for Vulnerable Communities

Reliable Clean Energy for Those Who Need it Most

On January 12, 2021 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a new decision in the CPUC microgrid proceeding. While the decision did very little to advance microgrid commercialization as required by SB 1339, it did include $200 million in utility ratepayer funding for a new incentive program to support microgrid development in vulnerable communities. These funds will not be enough to meet the magnitude of the need but the decision is an important policy step in the right direction.

Prioritization of vulnerable communities is a primary objective of The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience (CER) initiative. We are working with many partners to create a better electricity system for California that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe– prioritizing microgrid development in lower-income communities that suffer the most from air pollution and power outages.

The CPUC action followed through on recommendations from The Climate Center and Vote Solar as well as allied parties in the microgrid proceeding including Grid AlternativesSierra Club California and the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

During the discussion on the decision , CPUC President Batjer noted that “there remains work to do.”  We strongly support key points in the letter sent by Reclaim our Power to the CPUC highlighting the need to invest in disadvantaged communities, allow local communities to define critical facilities, develop a microgrid incentive structure to address historical inequities, focus on clean energy microgrids, and provide opportunities for community ownership.

The forward movement of this new decision, as well as the CPUC decision issued last June which recognized the pivotal role of local governments in energy resilience planning, was driven in part by comments filed by The Climate Center and filing partner Vote Solar in the CPUC proceeding over the past year.

As highlighted in our filings (e.g., January 4th and December 28th), as well as in The Climate Center’s CER Policy Summit last August, California’s clean energy programs have not sufficiently benefited lower-income customers who face higher cost burdens and are disproportionately impacted by power shutoffs.

Rather than leaving such decisions to a remote utility-centered policy-making process, local communities need to be empowered to plan their own energy future. Local empowerment is a core objective of The Climate Center’s flagship CER legislation, SB 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act, as introduced by Senator Bill Dodd in late December.

To learn more, please visit www.theclimatecenter.org/microgrids

Equitable clean energy– support this new bill

Technology and market trends of this moment are laying the groundwork for a clean, affordable, reliable, equitable and safe electricity grid in California. Unfortunately, our laws are sabotaging us.

The failings of our archaic electrical system, which ignited many of California’s recent wildfires, are causing homeowners, businesses, hospitals, firefighters, and others to buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators– increasing emissions that drive climate change and making fires worse.

Right now California regulators are considering new contracts for fossil fuel-powered plants in response to last summer’s blackouts. This is a big step in the wrong direction.

Instead, California policy should help local governments and stakeholders develop clean energy resilience plans that address climate change while prioritizing our most vulnerable communities.

Senate Bill 99, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd and sponsored by The Climate Center, will help local governments do just that by providing them with the technical tools and support to develop their own community energy resilience plans, rather than relying on investor-owned utilities.

While many wealthier communities have access to clean energy and energy storage, California can and must prioritize equitable access to clean energy resilience for communities that suffer most from air pollution and power outages. Senate Bill 99 prioritizes support for these communities.

Support Senate Bill 99, the Community Energy Resilience Act now.

The technology needed to create this new decentralized energy future is available now. The energy storage industry is booming with microgrid projects proliferating and an accelerated transition to electric vehicles globally.

General Motors’ recent announcement committing to selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 and President Biden’s plan for an all-electric federal fleet present the possibility of quickly scaling up electric vehicle adoption and thus, battery storage for energy resilience.

Support The Climate Center’s policy leadership to secure local clean energy and storage.

Automakers and charging infrastructure manufacturers are already developing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which could be used by utilities to minimize power outages and effectively capture, store and send solar energy back to the grid during peak demand hours.

For example, if all of California’s 24,000 school buses were electric and able to discharge energy to the electric grid during peak hours, we could substantially reduce chances of blackouts, help fight climate change, and avoid local air pollution, all at the same time.

Help us secure policies like SB99 for equitable community energy resilience!

To achieve widespread adoption of clean energy microgrids, our state’s broken regulations must be fixed. New forward-thinking policies can ensure that every community can install renewables and storage where they need it most.

The Climate Center is working with diverse partners across the state to secure the needed policies for equitable access to resilient clean energy.

Make a donation todaysupport Senate Bill 99, and if you haven’t already, endorse Climate-Safe California!

With gratitude,

Ellie

Ellie Cohen, CEO

Let’s be brave enough to see it and be it

Kudos to President Joe Biden for his courage in speaking truth and science to the world. His inaugural address made clear the urgent need to heal the nation and the planet:

“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now… A cry for survival comes from the planet itself.”

– President Joe Biden at his Inaugural Address, January 20, 2021

President Biden called for unity and truth at a time when 90 of the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results have also denied basic climate science. Biden also named climate change among several common enemies of the people:

“This is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis.”

Over the past few weeks, President Biden demonstrated a promising commitment to addressing the climate crisis by building a strong climate team. And on Inauguration Day, he rejoined the Paris Accord and moved to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.

He also signed an executive order beginning the process of overturning environmental policies under the Trump administration, including rescinding rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards, imposing a moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses.

President Biden’s cabinet picks have shown his commitment to supporting Indigenous rights, science, equity, justice, and a transition away from fossil fuels. In fact, he plans to spend $2 trillion over four years to rapidly move away from coal, oil and gas, and has set a goal of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation by 2035 (10 years earlier than current California law!). By midcentury, Mr. Biden has vowed that the entire United States economy will be carbon neutral.

In tandem with these federal efforts and funding, we must now insist that California lead on climate once again. It’s time for policymakers to accelerate climate action timelines and pass bold legislation to equitably phase out fossil fuels, scale up nature-based carbon sequestration on natural and working lands, and advance resilience to growing climate impacts. Bold California leadership is required to demonstrate to the country and the world how to achieve a vibrant and healthy future for all.

Please support our urgent work today by making a donation today here, join us for the upcoming Climate-Safe California webinar series (see more below), and, if you haven’t yet, endorse Climate-Safe California here.

As the nation’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, concluded in her exceptional reading at the inauguration, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Let’s be brave enough to do the work to secure the equitable, vibrant climate-safe future we desperately need!