Congressional climate strategy includes microgrids and climate justice

Last week, Democrats on the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued a report, “Solving the Climate Crisis, “ which provides an emissions reduction policy framework which seeks to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s a link to a summary article from Vox about the report. 

One of the recommendations in the report is to “Invest in disproportionately exposed communities to cut pollution and advance environmental justice.” This matches Climate Center policy priorities related to climate justice as noted in a recent letter sent by The Climate Center and Partners to the Steyer Committee (here’s a link to a summary article from Microgrid Knowledge).  One of the principles of The Climate Center-backed Community Energy Resilience Act, SB 1314, was the prioritization of state support for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The new report also spotlights microgrid development as a key resilience strategy, particularly for critical infrastructure — similar to recommendations from The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program and associated media efforts.

Microgrid-related recommendations in the new congressional report include the following:

  • Establishing a new program at the Departments of Health and Human Services to support pre-disaster hospital and health facility resilience projects, including retrofits and maintenance to reduce flood and wildfire risk, harden facilities against extreme weather, and integrate redundant water and power supplies, including microgrids and community renewable energy grids;
  • Directing the Department of Energy to create a grant, technical assistance, and demonstration programs for microgrids, especially in isolated areas and vulnerable communities;
  • Providing technical assistance and funding through the US Department of Agriculture to deploy resilient renewable energy and microgrid systems;
  • Creating a new program within the Department of Transportation to assess and deploy resilient solutions for public transit electrification, including advanced microgrids.

To learn more community energy resilience policy, register here for The Climate Center’s August 5th Community Energy Resilience Policy Summit.

Fracking rig operates next to a walking and bike way for residents of Signal Hill drilling into the Los Angeles Oil Field. Photo by Sarah Craig.

The rise of leaky wells and taxpayer liabilities

A rapidly growing movement is underway in California to call out Governor Gavin Newsom for ramping up approval of fracking and drilling permits. This comes at a time when the effects of fossil fuel pollution on public health is of grave concern and many oil and gas companies may abandon leaky wells because of bankruptcy with falling demand for their products.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency approved 12 new permits for Chevron to conduct fracking in the Lost Hills Oil Field in Kern County. Newsom has now granted a total of 48 fracking permits since ending his initial moratorium on the practice.

Newsom has also approved drilling permits for more than 1,400 new oil and gas wells so far this year. According to a California Council on Science and Technology report, it would cost more than $9.2 billion to properly plug California’s existing oil and gas wells, and operators have not set aside nearly enough money to pay for this legally required cleanup. Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution through proximity to these wells, making this a climate justice issue.

The federal government estimates that there are already more than three million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States. Two million of those are unplugged, releasing the methane equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 1.5 million cars. 

As oil and gas companies face bankruptcy, many fear that wells will be left leaking pollution, with cleanup costs left to taxpayers. At the same time, some of the top executives at these companies are granting themselves multi-million dollar bonuses just days before declaring bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, cities across the state see a way out of reliance on natural gas. The City of Berkeley banned new natural gas hookups in 2019, and now 30 California cities have policies that ban gas or at least encourage all-electric construction in some way. 

San Francisco officials recently said that they are introducing legislation that would be similar to Berkeley’s ban, and Pacific Gas & Electric has also said it would support the growing push for state rules that require new buildings to be all-electric.

Clearly California communities are moving away from natural gas. So, why is Newsom increasing extraction permits and with it, taxpayer liability for leaky wells?

Tell Governor Newsom to put public health first, not oil and gas interests

The plan meant to unite Biden and Bernie voters on climate is here

by Emily Pontecorvo, Grist


  • After Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, he joined forces with Former Vice President Joe Biden to create a climate task force
  • Other members of the task force included Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, and Catherine Flowers, the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Secretary of State John Kerry, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, and former Biden policy advisor Kerry Duggan
  • The platform focuses on environmental justice, eliminating pollution, creating union jobs in clean energy, and other policies reminiscent of the Green New Deal
  • Varshini Prakash helped shape the platform by changing the target dates form 2050 to 2035 and introduced benchmarks such as electrifying school buses, retrofitting buildings, and increased energy efficiency within the first 5 years of Biden’s presidency
  • The task force also incorporated a “Tribal Needs Assessment” to support more than 500 tribes in the energy transition

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.

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Want to tear down monuments to racism and segregation? Bulldoze L.A. freeways

by Matthew Fleischer, The Los Angeles Times


  • The construction of freeways was a direct result of Los Angeles’s racist past, creating a city segregated on the basis of race, causing the destruction of black neighborhoods and the elimination of beneficial transportation 
  • The Red Car transit system provided access to residents throughout the city, creating thriving, diverse neighborhoods, but disappeared once cars became more accessible
  • A mass influx of African-Americas moving west from the South resulted in more Jim Crow-based laws in LA
  • The 1944 Federal-Aid Highway Act allocated funds for nearly 2,000 miles of freeways in California, which were then used to break apart unsegregated and black communities
  • Predominately white areas such as Beverly Hills  and South Pasadena were able to protest and fight any plans for freeways in their neighborhoods
  • Car-dependent suburbs developed away from the city and accessible public transit as a means to keep black Angelenos from moving in
  • These freeways serve as physical barriers from white neighborhoods to black neighborhoods and these disparities are still seen today

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign calls for clean mobility solutions, including a phase-out of all gas-powered vehicles to eliminate air pollution in our most vulnerable communities. 

Read More:

U.S. states have spent the past 5 years trying to criminalize protest

by Naveena Sadasivam, Grist


Minnesota has recently been the site of continued protests focused on racial equality and police brutality. The state has also seen many protests concerning the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure such as large pipeline projects. Over the past four years, state lawmakers have introduced ten bills criminalizing protests that include jail time and heavy fines.

  • Various bills were introduced after the murder of Philando Castile by police in 2016 when protesters shut down a major highway. Other bills concerned protests that were against a planned replacement of a pipeline that ran through Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin  
  • Some bills would have allowed protesters to be jailed for up to a year, fined offenders up to $3,000 each, and allowed cities to sue protesters for the cost of police response
  • There are two bills proposed this year:  One would make trespassing on property with oil and gas facilities punishable by up to three years in prison with a fine of $5,000
  • A report by PEN America says that 116 anti-protest bills were proposed in state legislatures between 2015 and 2020 and 23 bills in 15 states became law
  • Minnesota state senator Paul Utke sponsored a bill that would have made training, hiring, or counseling those who end up trespassing on property with a pipeline a felony punishable with up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine after the Dakota Access Pipeline protests

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that lower-income communities and communities of color get climate justice.

Read more:

Unequal impact: The deep links between racism and climate change

by Beth Gardiner, Yale Environment 360


Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance, shares the correlation between the United States’ racist past and the current climate crisis

  • Climate movements typically center around conversation and protecting wildlife while not advocating for the protection of Black and Brown people who are directly impacted by climate change and environmental racism
  • Climate change stems all the way back to colonial times, where indigenous lands were exploited and used for extraction of natural resources in the name of capitalism
  • The treatment of Black and Indigenous people present-day can be compared to the early days of America, where enslaved people were given poor housing and food
  • The communities impacted by COVID are the same ones experiencing pollution, and they will continue to feel the worst effects of the climate crisis
  • Policies, such as the Green New Deal, must include frontline leaders and frontline communities in order to better serve all people
  • A just transition of labor must look at the process and impacts of achieving sustainability to ensure that frontline communities are not experiencing more pollution in pursuit of sustainability

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.

Read more:

The climate justice movement must oppose white supremacy everywhere

by Mattias Lehman, Medium


Mattias Lehman of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate movement working for the end to the climate crisis, shares how environmental groups need to focus more on racial inequality.

  • The climate movement is typically focused on nature-based initiatives such as “Save the Trees” and “Save the Polar Bears,” but rarely provides emphasis on saving the Black and Brown communities that have been experiencing environmental racism throughout history
  • The climate crisis is a major contributing factor to the migration of peoples to other countries. Many are seeking refuge from drought and famine
  • Environmental groups must speak out on injustices within the immigrant communities because immigrants are directly impacted by climate effects. To be silent is to be complicit with the racism that keeps these communities on the frontlines, in detention centers, and held in cages
  • Supporting and working towards defunding, reforming, and abolishing structures in this country built on principles of systemic racism is an important step for building a just, green, and equitable future

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.

Read more:

DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden’s current plan

by Rachel Frazin, The Hill


  • The Democratic National Committee Climate Council released a set of policy recommendations for a greater investment than Joe Biden’s climate plan
  • Joe Biden’s climate plan would spend $1.7 trillion over the next decade to address climate change, whereas the Climate Council plan endorses spending $10-16 trillion over the same period
  • Michelle Deatrick, leader of the Climate Council, emphasizes that this plan would be the boldest policy the party has adopted:

“These policies center environmental justice for frontline and vulnerable communities, urgent climate action, and worker empowerment… If adopted, these platform recommendations would be the most ambitious policies addressing the climate crisis ever adopted by the Democratic Party.”

  • Biden’s plan calls for reaching a 100% clean energy economy and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050  and halving the carbon footprints of buildings by 2035
  • The Climate Council calls for almost-zero emissions by 2040, banning crude oil exports, denying permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure, a permanent ban on fracking, and 100% renewable energy in electricity generation, buildings, and transportation by 2030

The Climate Center works toward electrifying buildings and vehicles using 100% clean energy sources such as solar and wind to eliminate fossil fuel-based emissions. 

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Bold and just climate policy needed now: Support Climate-Safe California

The COVID-19 crisis, while devastating on many levels, has also increased trust in science and the role of government, essential to reversing the climate crisis.

We are (re)learning that we ignore science at our peril and advance preparation saves lives. As a society, COVID-19 is giving us a taste of what’s to come if we do not take significant steps to flatten the climate curve very soon.

Your generous gift today supports The Climate Center’s urgent efforts to flatten the climate curve fast, as the latest science demands.

Working from home–and in too many cases, losing jobs and having no options but to remain at home– has led to projections that global emissions could drop by more than 5.5% this year.

But even a 10% drop would result in warming emissions that are “higher than in any year before 2010. Emissions cuts in 2020 alone will, therefore, have little impact, unless they are followed by longer-lasting changes.”

COVID has spread lightning fast and unemployment has quickly skyrocketed. Similarly, the effects of climate change are hitting us harder and faster than ever before

With 9 of 15 global tipping points already activated, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a climate-safe future.

Although numerous organizations have been working on climate for many years, the speed at which the crisis is growing surpasses current efforts. We urgently need to make climate policy progress commensurate with the worsening climate reality.

Per the latest science, massive reductions of warming emissions with the beginning of drawdown from the atmosphere are required by 2030 to prevent catastrophic impacts. Our only hope is to enact bold policies now, not decades later.

The Climate Center’s new Climate-Safe California campaign aims to do just this.

Climate-Safe California is a powerful, comprehensive, and unique science-driven campaign, filling a major gap within today’s climate movement.

We must ensure that California commits soon to achieving drawdown greater than emissions (net-negative emissions) and resilient communities by 2030.

The time is now to enact the bold climate policies required by science to avoid catastrophic impacts, starting here in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Establishing this critical deadline sets the stage for enacting a range of new policies to achieve massive greenhouse gas reductions, major increases in sequestration on working and natural lands with biodiversity and resilience co-benefits, and significant support to all of California’s communities to plan for and enact resilience measures.

Achieving Climate-Safe California’s vision is not a question of IF or WHEN. We have no choice but to make this a reality now to secure a healthy, vibrant future for all.

We are only as resilient as the most vulnerable, another stark lesson from COVID-19.

Indeed, we will only achieve these urgent goals by committing to enacting climate-safe policies that ensure lower-income communities are no longer disproportionately harmed. We understand that there cannot be climate justice without racial justice. 

We also understand that we will only achieve these urgent goals by securing a just transition for workers whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuel industries.

Your support of Climate-Safe California will help ensure that state policy timelines are accelerated while securing an equitable and just transition to a clean energy future.

As goes California, so goes the world. Climate-Safe California will catalyze global action to help secure a healthy, vibrant future for all.

As Congressman Jared Huffman, who enthusiastically joined almost 200 other endorsers, wrote:

 “I applaud Climate-Safe California for recognizing that solving our climate crisis requires setting the bar high enough to actually meet the challenge. I endorse this effort to keep California on that course, leading our country and the world toward climate solutions.”

COVID-19 has demonstrated that both individual actions and coordinated government action are essential. Governments have acted unusually fast, investing unbudgeted trillions into addressing the pandemic. The same must happen to solve the climate crisis.

Accelerating government policy timelines and increasing investments are key to channeling market forces that will ultimately allow everyone to participate in the clean energy economy.

Key to changing government policies is building a cross-sectoral, unified movement focused on timely climate action. Collectively, we will ensure that our leaders in Sacramento do the right thing.

Toward that end, The Climate Center team is working to secure endorsements, establish a diverse statewide alliance that bridges climate action silos, build clout in Sacramento, engage experts to develop policy pathway options, mobilize climate opinion leaders, and develop grassroots partners in key geographies of the state.  

We’ve met with almost 100 organizations, experts, and opinion leaders. We’ve hired specialists in policy and labor. We’ve secured support in the Governor’s revised budget to help local communities plan for clean energy and backup storage in anticipation of expanding fire seasons.

We’re gaining momentum and we need your help to keep moving forward!

Join us today by making your most generous gift to Climate-Safe California. Our future depends on it!

At a time when many nonprofits and businesses are cutting back due to COVID-19, our board recently recommitted to growing The Climate Center’s extraordinary efforts.

Thanks to you, we successfully demonstrated that speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions are achievable in California.

With your help, The Climate Center played a key role in facilitating the phenomenal growth of Community Choice Energy from just two agencies five years ago to 21 today—now serving 88% fossil-fuel-free energy to 11 million Californians, one-quarter of the state

We are building on this amazing success by collaborating with a wide range of interests from business and local government to labor and environmental justice groups across the state.

Together we will reshape our future—the healthy, vibrant, equitable, and climate-safe future that is still possible if we act today! 

“Climate-Safe California is the bold pathway that leads toward shared prosperity on a healthy planet – exactly what California and the world need now,” as L. Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions and Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder noted in her endorsement.

Please dig deep and be as generous as possible with a gift today (or mail to PO Box 3785, Santa Rosa, CA 95402). And please endorse Climate-Safe California today if you haven’t yet!

With your support, we will continue to advance our work to secure a climate-safe future for all. Thank you!

The Climate Center Stands Against Racism, Police Violence and Environmental Injustice

The Climate Center stands in solidarity with communities of color and with the protesters in the streets. We join them in demanding an end to institutional racism, police violence, white supremacy, and the environmental injustices that many Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous communities experience daily.

Shared responsibility and equitable, inclusive solutions are fundamental values we strive to embody in our efforts to realize speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions.

Our urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice. Read more here.