Governor Newsom signs California’s natural climate solutions bill AB 1757 into law

VALLEJO, California — Moments ago, Governor Newsom signed AB 1757 (C. Garcia and Rivas) into law. The new law requires state agencies to set targets for natural carbon removal and emissions reductions on natural and working lands, based on earlier legislation (AB 2649, C. Garcia) sponsored by The Climate Center with the Carbon Cycle Institute, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Scaling up carbon removal, including natural climate solutions, was one of five climate priorities for the governor heading into the final two weeks of this year’s legislative session.

“On behalf of California’s frontline communities, I’d like to thank Governor Newsom for signing this important bill into law,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). “The dangerous heatwave our state just endured is a stark reminder that climate action is literally a matter of life and death. ​​California is hotter and drier, our water is more scarce, our food supply is in danger, and our forests are on fire. Sequestering carbon on natural and working lands is the path forward California must pursue if we are truly going to protect vulnerable communities like mine.”

Natural carbon removal solutions can safely and cost-effectively draw down past carbon emissions with multiple co-benefits for people and nature. Approaches such as greening urban areas, planting trees and shrubs near crops, applying compost to farmland, and restoring wetlands can improve food and water security in the face of worsening climate extremes. 

AB 1757 will catalyze natural carbon sequestration in California by:

  • ​​Requiring the California Natural Resources Agency and Air Resources Board to establish ambitious targets for sequestration on natural and working lands for 2030, 2038, and 2045;
  • Ensuring that natural sequestration projects have rigorous measurement and verification; and
  • Establishing an expert committee — including researchers, farmers, and tribal and environmental justice representatives — to advise state agencies on modeling and implementation. 

“I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for signing AB 1757 into law and to Assemblymember Garcia for championing natural climate solutions in the legislature,” said The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen. “The stage is set for California to become a global leader in natural carbon removal, building our resilience to extreme heat, drought, and wildfires at the same time. We look forward to working with state agencies to set the ambitious targets for sequestering carbon on our state’s natural and working lands that the worsening climate crisis requires.”

“We applaud the governor and the legislature’s leadership on advancing the natural and working lands sector as a critical pillar of the state’s climate portfolio,” said the Carbon Cycle Institute Executive Director Torri Estrada. “Farmers, ranchers, land-based communities, and their partners are eager to work in partnership with the state to develop ambitious targets and implementation strategies that build upon and scale the existing, innovative work already happening on the ground across California.”

“On behalf of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, I thank Governor Newsom for signing AB 1757 today and thank Assemblymember Garcia for her leadership to push natural climate solutions into this historic climate package,” said the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts’ Board Chair Don Butz. “Natural and working lands are poised to play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, and Resource Conservation Districts are eager to get to work implementing natural carbon sequestration projects.”

“This new law means state agencies can use nature-based solutions such as wetland restoration to meet carbon sequestration targets,” said Gilly Lyons, an officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Extensive tidal wetland restoration efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area have boosted carbon sequestration by more than 30 percent over the last three decades while also providing habitat for numerous bird and fish species, protecting the coastline from floods, and helping to maintain a clean, plentiful water supply.”

A recent report from The Climate Center found that California’s working and urban lands alone have the potential to sequester up to 103 million metric tons of past climate pollution from the atmosphere per year. Adding sequestration on natural lands and waters, as AB 1757 does, further increases the potential for scalable, cost-effective solutions. 

ENDS

Notes: 

The full bill text of AB 1757 is available here. A letter of support for the bill signed by 35 organizations is available here

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

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org 

About the Carbon Cycle Institute:

The Carbon Cycle Institute’s mission is to stop and reverse global climate change by advancing natural, science-verified solutions that reduce atmospheric carbon while promoting environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic sustainability. CCI has trained over 100 carbon farm planners and helped establish carbon farming programs at 32 Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) across California. RCDs, working with farmers and ranchers in their districts, have completed 137 carbon farm plans, encompassing approximately 71,440 acres of agricultural lands.

About The Pew Charitable Trusts:

Established in 1948, The Pew Charitable Trusts is a global nongovernmental organization that seeks to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life.

California legislative session ends with breakthroughs on climate

SACRAMENTO — On the final day to pass legislation in 2022, California state lawmakers went late into the night to deliver historic policies that will reduce climate pollution and protect frontline communities. 

In response, The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen said:

“California has the tools and know-how to lead the world toward a climate-safe future. But until this moment, our elected leaders have lacked the political will. I am deeply grateful to Governor Newsom, our state legislators, and their tireless staff for summoning the courage to put people and science before polluter profits. I am also so grateful to the climate and environmental justice advocates who came together to successfully demand bold, equitable policies. 

“While there’s much more to do, California is now poised to jumpstart its leadership on natural climate solutions, rein in fossil fuel pollution in frontline communities, and accelerate the deployment of safe, renewable, and reliable energy.” 

Key climate bills headed to Governor Newsom’s desk include:

  • AB 1757 (C. Garcia and Rivas): Requires state agencies to set targets for natural carbon removal on natural, agricultural, and urban lands, based on legislation sponsored by The Climate Center earlier in the session (AB 2649, C. Garcia). The Climate Center organized more than 80 organizations to sign on in support.
  • SB 1137 (Gonzalez): Establishes 3,200-foot public health setbacks between new oil and gas wells and homes, schools, playgrounds, and hospitals, an effort led by the VISIÓN coalition.
  • AB 1279 (Marutsachi): Establishes a statutory target for reaching carbon neutrality and reducing emissions at least 85 percent by no later than 2045.
  • SB 1020 (Laird): Sets interim clean electricity targets, including 90 percent by 2035.
  • SB 1314 (Limón): Bans the use of enhanced oil recovery, a dangerous practice used by the oil and gas industry that produces more fossil fuels from carbon capture and storage. 

This slate of bills and several others passed last night represent the most ambitious climate action out of the California legislature in years. There are, however, some major disappointments. 

Most notably, AB 2133 (Quirk), a bill to accelerate the state’s emissions reduction target to 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, fell just four votes short of passing out of the Assembly and onto the governor’s desk. Recent analysis found that achieving this target would create 235,000 new jobs and add $55 billion to the state’s economy. 

“As California has shown before, establishing bold targets sends market signals globally, unleashing private investment and major innovation that can benefit all of our communities,” added Cohen. “Earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) found that the state could cut emissions by at least 47 percent by 2030. A historic budget surplus and massive infusion of federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and other programs will allow California to do even more and beat the goals outlined in AB 2133. There’s still a huge opportunity for the Newsom administration to realize its full vision by pursuing accelerated emissions reduction targets for 2030 in the CARB Scoping Plan five-year update due by December.”

A complete list of climate bills in the California state legislature this year, including The Climate Center’s stance on each bill, is available here

ENDS

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

About The Climate Center:

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org 

5 climate priorities as California’s legislative session wraps up for 2022

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session for this year, Governor Newsom has released a set of game-changing climate proposals. His draft climate package includes a more ambitious goal for reducing climate pollution by 2030, public health setbacks from dangerous oil and gas drilling, and a commitment to nature-based carbon sequestration. 

This is great news! We welcome the governor’s leadership, but his plan still needs some key improvements to protect our climate and communities. Negotiations are already underway in Sacramento, so we don’t have a lot of time to act.

The governor has never been this hands-on with climate legislation before — it’s clear he’s listening to our movement. Please join us in urging state leaders to do five things:

  1. Accelerate the timeline for reaching carbon neutrality;
  2. Prioritize nature-based solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere;
  3. Avoid using public or ratepayer funds to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant;
  4. Invest in renewable, decentralized energy like solar and storage; and
  5. Protect frontline communities from the harms of fossil fuel pollution.

The deadline for California to pass any new climate laws this year is in less than two weeks. That means we need to make our voices heard right now to make an impact!

Take action now urging Governor Newsom and state lawmakers to be as bold as possible during this critical window of opportunity.

Enacting ambitious, equitable climate laws this year would do so much for California. We can create thousands of family-sustaining jobs, build resilience to wildfires, improve our food and water security, make our electricity more affordable and reliable, and so much more. 

This is our moment! Let’s harness this momentum to create a thriving, just California for all.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

An alternative to keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open: Clean, decentralized energy

UPDATE August 24, 2022: Late last week, members of the California State Assembly circulated an alternative proposal for avoiding power outages that would avert the need for extending the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The Climate Center strongly supports the majority of this proposal and recommends state leaders prioritize investment in clean, distributed energy to address the state’s electricity reliability and capacity concerns.

###

August 19, 2022 — Last week, Governor Newsom unveiled a $1.4 billion proposal to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, located on California’s central coast. The plant was set to close in 2025, but under the new proposal would remain open until 2035 in an effort to avoid power outages. Keeping the plant open an additional ten years would be both risky and expensive.

In response, The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen said:

“California should invest in renewable, decentralized energy to keep the lights on — not throw public money at a dead-end nuclear plant. Maintaining the Diablo Canyon plant for another ten years would be a mistake. We have the opportunity to build a cleaner, safer, more affordable, and more reliable grid today through renewable energy and storage.

“California’s one million solar roofs and one million electric vehicles have enormous potential. They already have a combined capacity far greater than the state’s projected 5-gigawatt electricity shortfall, which led Governor Newsom to prioritize keeping Diablo Canyon open in the first place. Electric cars, trucks, and buses can be deployed as ‘batteries on wheels’ to keep critical facilities powered when the grid fails. Instead of keeping a dangerous, aging nuclear facility open, let’s invest our tax dollars in building the grid for the future.”

Yesterday, The Climate Center sent a letter to the Newsom administration, state legislators, and key regulatory offices outlining how investments in clean, decentralized energy and storage can improve electricity reliability. The letter urges California’s leaders to shift public dollars from the Diablo Canyon plant to clean, decentralized energy solutions like solar and storage.

ENDS

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

About The Climate Center:

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org

 

AB 2649 held in Senate, but natural carbon removal remains on Newsom’s priority list

SACRAMENTO, August 11, 2022 — Earlier today, the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act (AB 2649, C. Garcia) failed to advance out of the California State Senate Appropriations Committee. AB 2649 aimed to set California’s first-ever statutory targets for naturally removing past climate pollution from the atmosphere through soil and vegetation on natural, urban, and working lands. This would have included restoring important natural carbon sinks, such as coastal wetlands.

Although the bill was held, nature-based sequestration has become a higher priority for the Newsom administration in recent weeks. The governor first signaled his desire to set an ambitious natural carbon removal target in a letter to the California Air Resources Board. He reiterated that goal in a memo circulated to state legislators last week and is expected to release additional details on his legislative priorities in the coming days. 

“I introduced the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act to protect public health in California’s frontline communities,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). “I remain unequivocally committed to that goal. Unlike engineered carbon capture methods proposed by fossil fuel corporations, natural carbon sequestration solutions like urban tree-planting, compost application, and agroforestry are ready to deploy now, affordable, and environmentally just. 

“This summer has been a stern reminder that bold action is needed now. We must use all the tools available to us —  it’s literally a matter of life and death. California is hotter and drier, our water is more scarce, our food supply is in danger, and our forests are on fire. Sequestration of carbon on natural and working lands is the path forward California lawmakers and regulators must pursue if we are truly going to protect vulnerable communities like mine.”

AB 2649 was introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and co-authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) with Senators Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland). It’s sponsored by The Climate Center with co-sponsors Carbon Cycle Institute, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, and Pew Charitable Trusts

“The Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act was designed to help California tackle several crises at once,” said The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen. “Ever-worsening drought, wildfires, and air pollution remain massive challenges for our state. We are grateful that Governor Newsom has called on regulators to set natural carbon removal targets for California. We now urge the governor and lawmakers to include bold, achievable targets for carbon sequestration on natural and working lands in a climate package before the legislature adjourns for the year.” 

“After being heavily lobbied by oil and gas interests, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is considering pouring billions of dollars into failed, polluting carbon capture and storage projects. Natural carbon sequestration should be prioritized over engineered carbon removal scams for the health of our communities and our climate. Only then can we leverage the potential of California’s natural and working lands to sequester carbon, improve water security, and build resilience to growing climate impacts.”

A recent report from The Climate Center found that California’s working and urban lands have the potential to sequester up to 103 MMT of past climate pollution from the atmosphere per year. Adding sequestration on natural lands and waters, as AB 2649 does, further increases the potential for scalable, cost-effective, natural solutions. The bill sets a bold and achievable goal of sequestering 60 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year by 2030, increasing to 75 MMT annually by 2035. For comparison, 60 MMT of CO2e is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas pollution from roughly 13 million passenger vehicles. 

ENDS

Notes: 

The Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act of 2022 (AB 2649) fact sheet is available here and the full bill language here. A full list of more than 80 supporting organizations is available here. Additional details on the differences between fossil fuel CCS, direct air capture, and natural carbon removal are available here. More information on natural carbon removal on working lands and its benefits for California can be found in The Climate Center’s report, Setting an Ambitious Sequestration Goal for California’s Working Lands.

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

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org 

California launches new energy program modeled on the Community Energy Resilience Act

SACRAMENTO, August 11, 2022 — Today, the California Energy Commission (CEC) held a workshop to mark the creation of a new $170 million Community Energy Resilience investment program. The program is modeled after the Community Energy Resilience Act (SB 833), which was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee today following the creation of the new CEC program. SB 833 was authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and sponsored by The Climate Center. 

“This is a critical step forward for California’s energy future,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “This program will help deliver exactly what our state needs — a major investment in clean, resilient energy with frontline communities at its heart. With local solar and storage, microgrids, and other ready-to-deploy, distributed energy solutions, California is finally on a path to build a clean, affordable, resilient, and safe Grid for the Future.”  

Power outages and grid disruptions have been a focus for Governor Newsom and state lawmakers this year. In July, the governor signaled his desire to improve grid reliability without furthering reliance on fossil fuels in a letter to the California Air Resources Board. He reiterated that goal in a memo circulated to state legislators last week. 

According to the CEC, the new Community Energy Resilience program will invest in projects that “increase energy resilience and reliability, reduce the likelihood and consequences of disruptions to the electricity grid, promote decarbonization of the energy system, improve energy justice, and create good-paying jobs.” 

The program will be funded through U.S. Department of Energy grants to California from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The CEC expects funds to be available in 2023.

“It’s welcome news that the new California Energy Commission program will invest in clean energy resilience in the communities that suffer the most from air pollution and power outages,” said Jina Kim, Attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.

“This is an exciting development for the growing microgrid industry in California,” added Allie Detrio, Senior Advisor with the Microgrid Resources Coalition. “Communities will be able to receive funding to build microgrids and develop clean energy projects that meet our climate, system reliability, and community resilience goals.”

The Climate Center established a Community Energy Resilience program in 2020 to accelerate the development of a new electricity system for California. We envision a Grid for the Future that is clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe, prioritizing project development in disadvantaged communities. 

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

About The Climate Center:

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org

Testimony: California’s climate plan must put people before polluters

On August 9, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held the final community listening session on the 2022 Scoping Plan. The Scoping Plan will play a key role in determining the direction of California’s climate policy for the next critical several years. The actions we take this decade are critical for securing a climate-safe future and California must lead the way with bold, accelerated, and equitable climate policies.

The following is a transcript of testimony given to CARB by The Climate Center Chief Operating Officer Barry Vesser:

Thank you, Chair Randolph, board members, and agency staff. My name is Barry Vesser with The Climate Center. First and foremost, we appreciate the immense effort that went into this draft of the Scoping Plan.

That said, the Scoping Plan fails to realize the immense potential for sequestration on the state’s natural and working lands. The modeling done in the plan is flawed in many critical ways. Most starkly, soil carbon stocks were only modeled for the first 30 centimeters, while the consensus is that the majority of the carbon is stored well below 30 centimeters. This omission alone renders the modeling inaccurate and in need of reassessment. We urge the agency to assemble an advisory committee of scientists, economists, and other stakeholders to reevaluate the analyses underlying the natural and working lands sector before finalizing the Scoping Plan. We are happy to work with you in that regard.

We were pleased to see the Governor’s recent letter, which emphasized setting meaningful goals for natural carbon sequestration and should be used as a starting point. We urge the administration as a whole to differentiate the targets for nature-based solutions and technological ones given their vastly different contexts, outcomes, and timelines. Combining them confuses policymakers and the public on these counts.

Additionally, the Scoping Plan does not adequately represent the economic opportunities in the clean energy sector, especially now that it is cheaper to build large-scale renewable energy projects than it is to operate existing fossil fuel plants. Many reports also describe how the widespread deployment of distributed energy resources at the local level can provide more flexibility on the grid, thus accommodating more clean energy, faster. And from a systems perspective, these distributed resources are already affordable and provide benefits that utility-scale resources cannot. We need both. Supporting the rapid deployment of clean energy resources will help reach state needs for reliability, emissions reduction, community resiliency, and equity.

Lastly, the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act at the federal level is a game-changer that will ensure a stream of funding for California to invest even more in clean energy and transportation programs. The goals set out in the Scoping Plan must be updated to take advantage of and reflect this historic investment in climate and to maintain California’s leadership in climate mitigation. It also appears that the governor is poised to increase the 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target to a 55 percent reduction below 1990 levels — another reason to be more ambitious in the Scoping Plan. The world needs California to lead.

Thank you for your time and work on behalf of all Californians.

Governor Newsom directs CARB to prioritize nature-based carbon removal in revised Scoping Plan

SACRAMENTO — Late last week, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to make major changes to its draft climate plan. In a letter sent to CARB Chair Liane Randolph on July 22, Newsom wrote “we need to up our game” and urged CARB to address six key areas in its draft Scoping Plan.

Since the beginning of the Scoping Plan process, scientists and advocates have warned that the current draft is over-reliant on costly, unproven, engineered carbon removal technologies. Achieving California’s climate goals will require both major emissions cuts and drawing down past climate pollution from the atmosphere, which can only be achieved at scale this decade through nature-based approaches. 

“California must leverage the full potential of our natural and working lands to fight the climate crisis,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), lead author of a bill that would see California establish the nation’s first targets for natural carbon removal. “I am pleased to see Governor Newsom acknowledge the need for nature-based carbon removal, but the science shows we can do far more. 

“My bill, the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act (AB 2649), provides a strong framework for maximizing the potential of our state’s natural and working lands to sequester carbon without gambling on failed or unproven carbon removal technologies. I look forward to working with the governor and CARB to scale up nature-based carbon removal practices, build resilience to climate extremes like drought and heat, and lead the way toward a climate-safe future for all.”

AB 2649 aims to set California’s first-ever statutory targets for naturally removing past climate pollution from the atmosphere through natural and working lands. This includes restoring important natural carbon sinks, such as coastal wetlands.

A recent report from The Climate Center found that California’s working and urban lands have the potential to sequester up to 103 MMT of past climate pollution from the atmosphere per year by 2030. Adding sequestration on natural lands and waters, as AB 2649 does, further increases the potential for scalable, cost-effective, natural solutions. The bill sets a bold and achievable goal of sequestering 60 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year by 2030, increasing to 75 MMT annually by 2035. For comparison, 60 MMT of CO2e is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas pollution from roughly 13 million passenger vehicles. 

AB 2649 was introduced by Assemblymember Garcia and co-authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) with Senators Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland). It’s sponsored by The Climate Center with co-sponsors Carbon Cycle Institute, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, and Pew Charitable Trusts

“Thousands of Californians raised their voices to demand greater ambition from the California Air Resources Board, and we thank Governor Newsom for acting, “ said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “However, this plan still falls well short of what science and justice demand. Carbon neutrality by 2045 is simply too late.”

In his letter to CARB, Governor Newsom acknowledged that “our lands are currently a source of carbon
emissions” and added, “we must prioritize sustainable management of these lands as nature-based solutions to sequester carbon.”

“California needs to engage the potential of our natural and working lands — and the energy and innovation of our land managers — to have any hope of achieving the state’s climate goals,” said Dr. Jeff Creque, Director of Rangeland and Agroecosystem Management at the Carbon Cycle Institute. “We applaud Governor Newsom’s leadership and strongly urge bold, near-term targets and actions as outlined in AB 2649.”

After passing out of the State Assembly and two Senate committees, AB 2649 is set to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.

ENDS

Notes:

The Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act of 2022 (AB 2649) fact sheet is available here and the full bill language here. A full list of more than 80 supporting organizations is available here. Additional details on the differences between fossil fuel carbon capture, direct air capture, and natural carbon removal are available here. More information on natural carbon removal on working lands and its benefits for California can be found in The Climate Center’s report, Setting an Ambitious Sequestration Goal for California’s Working Lands.

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

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org 

California’s natural carbon removal bill AB 2649 passes out of two Senate committees

SACRAMENTO, June 29, 2022 — Today, the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act (AB 2649, C. Garcia) advanced out of the California State Senate Environmental Quality Committee by a vote of five to two. Earlier this month, the bill passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee with bipartisan support. 

AB 2649 aims to set California’s first-ever statutory targets for naturally removing past climate pollution from the atmosphere through soil and vegetation management on natural, urban, and working lands. The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee and, if passed, to the Senate floor.

“I’m proud to be one step closer to passing the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act and protecting public health in California’s frontline communities,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). “Unlike engineered carbon capture methods pushed by fossil fuel lobbyists, natural carbon sequestration solutions like urban tree-planting, agroforestry, and habitat restoration are cost-effective, scalable, and environmentally just. In communities like mine — where my neighbors are surrounded by freeways and exposed to some of the worst air pollution in California — increasing urban tree canopies can help fight climate change, clear the air, and build resilience to life-threatening heat waves.”

AB 2649 was introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and co-authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) with Senators Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), and Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland). It’s sponsored by The Climate Center with co-sponsors Carbon Cycle Institute, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, and Pew Charitable Trusts

A recent report from The Climate Center found that California’s working and urban lands have the potential to sequester up to 103 MMT of past climate pollution from the atmosphere per year. Adding sequestration on natural lands and waters, as AB 2649 does, further increases the potential for scalable, cost-effective, natural solutions. The bill sets a bold and achievable goal of sequestering 60 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year by 2030, increasing to 75 MMT annually by 2035. For comparison, 60 MMT of CO2e is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas pollution from roughly 13 million passenger vehicles. 

“The Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act is designed to help California confront several crises at once,” said The Climate Center CEO Ellie Cohen. “Natural carbon sequestration solutions not only remove past carbon pollution from the atmosphere, they also improve water security and make our crops more resilient to drought. We look forward to continuing our work with the legislature to pass this bill and make California the first state in the nation to set a target for natural carbon accrual.” 

As affirmed by the latest report from the IPCC, we must dramatically cut emissions and remove upwards of a trillion tons of past climate pollution from the atmosphere to secure a stable, livable climate. Only natural carbon removal can safely and cost-effectively draw down past carbon emissions with multiple co-benefits for communities and nature. Despite this, the California Air Resources Board is proposing to gamble the state’s future on unproven, engineered carbon removal technologies that experts warn may never materialize

ENDS

Notes: 

The Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act of 2022 (AB 2649) fact sheet is available here and the full bill language here. A full list of supporting organizations is available here. Additional details on the differences between fossil fuel CCS, direct air capture, and natural carbon removal are available here. More information on natural carbon removal on working lands and its benefits for California can be found in The Climate Center’s report, Setting an Ambitious Sequestration Goal for California’s Working Lands.

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

About The Climate Center: 

The Climate Center is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate pollution at scale, starting in California. We are a think-tank, do-tank working to turn bold ideas into action for an equitable, climate-safe future. Our flagship Climate-Safe California campaign is a unique and comprehensive effort to make California the first state in the nation to reach carbon negative. www.theclimatecenter.org 

Testimony: Support for AB 2649, the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act

On June 29, 2022, the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act (AB 2649, C. Garcia) passed out of the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee by a vote of five to two. AB 2649 will make California the first state in the nation to set statutory goals for naturally removing past climate pollution from the atmosphere, while also making the state more resilient to heat extremes, drought, wildfires, and other climate impacts. You can also read more about the bill and find other relevant documents here.

The following is a transcript of testimony given to the Committee by The Climate Center’s Vincent Wiraatmadja and the Carbon Cycle Institute’s Dr. Jeff Creque.

Testimony from Vincent Wiraatmadja, Government Affairs Manager, The Climate Center:

Good morning, Chair Allen and committee members. My name is Vincent Wiraatmadja, Government Affairs Manager for The Climate Center. I am honored to testify in support of AB 2649 and am grateful to Assemblymember Garcia for championing this bill. 

Recent climate science reports from the UN are clear. The window of opportunity to secure a livable future is quickly closing. We must cut fossil fuel use in half by 2030, while also removing the huge amounts of carbon that we’ve already put into our atmosphere if we’re to have a shot at securing a stable climate.

To remove that legacy climate pollution, the state must rapidly scale up proven, cost-effective practices for natural carbon sequestration — such as applying compost and planting cover crops on agricultural soils, restoring riparian habitat and coastal wetlands, managing for mature forest structure, and greening our cities. 

AB 2649 will set urgently needed and achievable state goals for naturally accruing carbon in soil and vegetation over the long term, ensuring that as carbon cycles through natural systems, it accumulates in vegetation and soil over years, decades, and longer, while the amount returning to the atmosphere from these systems is reduced. 

We cannot rely on technological direct air capture (DAC), which is in its infancy, very expensive, and not yet scalable. Only natural carbon accrual can cost-effectively draw down previous carbon emissions at scale in this decade, while also increasing resilience to growing climate extremes and providing multiple co-benefits for our health, environment, and economy.

The bill is supported by 80 organizations, including CivicWell (formerly the Local Government Commission), who asked us to convey their support for the bill. We urge your aye vote on the Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act, which is essential for securing a healthy, climate-safe future for all. 

Testimony from Jeff Creque, PhD, Director of Rangeland and Agroecosystem Management, Carbon Cycle Institute:

Good morning, Chair Allen and committee members. I’m Dr. Jeff Creque, Director at the Carbon Cycle Institute, which is a co-sponsor of AB 2649. I hold a doctorate in Rangeland Ecology, I am a USDA-certified Conservation Planner, I have worked with scores of farmers across California, and I farmed in Marin County for 35 years. 

As much as one-third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the direct result of mismanagement of the world’s natural and working lands. We must urgently set — and meet — ambitious goals for the transfer of that excess carbon dioxide back into terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

To protect and restore California’s biodiversity, our water, salmon, forests, rangeland watersheds, agricultural soils, our natural resource-based economic activity, and the health of our communities, we must engage our natural and working lands to recapture as much of that lost carbon dioxide as quickly as possible. In the process, we will enhance the air, water, and food quality of our communities and their resilience to climate change.

AB2649 does not define the means to meet these goals but proposes a process to define those means. We emphasize that all actions under the terms of the bill are voluntary, as only willing engagement of the natural and working lands sector can achieve the ambitious goals of the legislation.

The state has identified the need for 100 new compost facilities to meet the legislative requirements of SB 1383. Compost is a potent strategy, but only one of many, to increase soil organic carbon long term.     

We rose to the challenge of the Dust Bowl by creating the Soil Conservation Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the County Conservation Districts. That infrastructure still exists. With adequate state support — including a greatly expanded, well-trained workforce and strong financial and technical support for our tens of thousands of land managers across the state — we can meet this new, much greater, challenge.

AB 2649 sets an ambitious yet essential and realizable target for terrestrial carbon sequestration in California. We urge your aye vote.  Thank you.