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Governor’s climate budget: one step forward, one step back

by Ellie Cohen, CEO, The Climate Center

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently released his proposed climate budget of $12.5 billion over five years to boost resilience, curb greenhouse gas pollution, and tackle the wildfire crisis. Note that his entire proposed budget for next year alone is $222 billion.

While we are grateful that the Governor has prioritized climate action, his proposal does not reflect the profound urgency of the science and climate reality. We need significantly more than $2.5 billion per year invested in major emissions cuts and the equitable transition to a climate-safe future.

Progressive funding strategies– from Frequent Flyer Fees to a Fee and Dividend approach that returns money to every taxpayer– can quickly produce the billions needed annually to advance clean energy and storage, carbon sequestration, sustainable mobility, and other initiatives required to secure a healthy, equitable and vibrant California!

Let the Governor know that there’s growing support to accelerate decarbonization in California, starting now!

Resiliency planning

We are pleased that the Governor’s proposal provides local governments with funds to complete resiliency planning- a core principle of The Climate Center’s community energy resilience efforts. It’s time to help local governments plan for future power outages (planned or unplanned) while also advancing their emissions reductions goals. Many of the most effective strategies for decarbonization, equity, and resilience fall within the jurisdiction of cities and counties.

Governor Newsom’s climate budget includes a $50 million line item to bolster community resilience as well as a $4.75 billion climate resilience bond that includes funding for “community-specific climate risks and climate resilience plans.” If approved by both the Senate and Assembly, this bond would be placed before voters on the November 2020 ballot.

Healthy soils and low carbon transportation cuts 

Another positive step forward is the proposed new Climate Catalyst Fund of $1 billion over four years that would provide low-interest loans for emerging technologies and projects aimed at greening California’s economy — especially in agriculture, recycling, and transportation.

We are dismayed, however, that the Healthy Soils Program has been cut by 36% to $18 million. We view this as a big step backward. Now is the time to vastly increase grants to farmers, ranchers and other private land managers for healthy soil management practices (e.g., compost application, cover cropping, and riparian restoration) that increase soil carbon storage and replenish groundwater for emissions reductions and resilience. Grants to reduce dairy methane emissions would also be cut for the second year in a row. The California Climate & Agriculture Network has come out against these budget cuts, citing their popularity and crucial role in sequestering carbon. We strongly agree.

Governor Newsom’s budget also proposes to cut the Air Resources Board’s funding for Low Carbon Transportation by 28% to only $350 million. These funds help put the cleanest trucks, buses, and cars on the road, especially in disadvantaged communities, while also creating jobs. The Coalition for Clean Air has come out against these proposed cuts, due to the critical role that the program has played in reducing air pollution and GHG emissions in the transportation sector (which accounts ~41% of GHG emissions in California). The Climate Center also strongly opposes these cuts.

Rapid decarbonization requires more funding, not less, to secure a healthy future for all.

The fifth-largest economy in the world must prioritize rapid decarbonization

As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California’s policies and budget priorities have major implications both in the state and far beyond its borders. Rapid and equitable decarbonization must be our highest priority to secure our well-being in state and to set an example for the nation and the world.

Please take action today and urge Governor Newsom to enact the bold policies required to reduce GHGs at speed and scale, and to secure a climate-safe future for us all.